Mick Gordon’s On Theatre project is designed to investigate the components of consciousness and belief formation. In the latest case study, that of teenager Bea, we are taken deep inside the instinct, ethics and practical business of assisted killing, but not in a theoretical way.
Bea, stricken with an unspecified, incurable illness, wants to die, resigned to the fact that she will never have a life, children or a house. There’s still time for sex, though; but how?
The play is set more or less entirely on and around her huge bed, with a vast headboard studded with key rings, lucky charms and other tokens of a teenage girl. This has been her only environment for eight years, and she shares it with her barrister mother, Katherine, and an Irish carer, Not Gay Ray (“How can I be gay? I’m from Belfast”).
The writing is shockingly direct and frank, with Pippa Nixon’s spirited, indefatigable Bea bouncing around like a small girl on Christmas morning, and then suddenly demanding sexual attention as part of Ray’s service, and double doses of morphine and pills from Katherine.
It’s all fairly upsetting, but unlike any other play I’ve seen this year, and beautifully played not just by Nixon, but also by Al Weaver as Ray and Paula Wilcox as Katherine. Gordon directs, Alice Woodward designs and there are a few blasts of mordant, raunchy music by Nick Lloyd Webber.