Chris Larner Moves his Audience to Tears with An Instinct for Kindness
Last year, I was at the Fringe directing Scott Mills-Off-Of-Radio-1-Innit, in his one-man show The Bjorn Identity. Three years ago I was here with a musical called On The Island Of Aars and two years before that… anyway, this is probably my tenth Fringe, one way or another, and everything I’ve been associated with has been comedic.
This year is a first for me: I’m here with An Instinct for Kindness, which tells the story of my going to Dignitas, to accompany my brave ex-wife Allyson as she took her own life, to escape from her crippling, deteriorating MS. It’s not – I hope –a gloomy piece of theatre: despite the subject matter there are laughs in it and it is life-affirming; but is as far from yer actual comedy as you could get. It’s quite a responsibility, asking an audience to come with me on such a journey, and I’m profoundly grateful for their trust. I’ve performed the piece eight times now and I am, I suppose, getting used to the fact that audiences are moved to tears, to silence, to contemplation. Strangers are coming up to me afterwards, unable to speak but wanting to hug me. I see people from the audience, taking themselves off into quiet corners of the venue, needing privacy to recover. I’m not boasting here – yes, I think I perform it well and I’m pleased with the writing, but it is simply the story of a brave woman who died, and it is that fact which moves people, myself included.
In the past I have wondered why anyone would bring to the Fringe – where the competition is so ridiculously numerous – any show which wasn’t a right laugh, and yet here I am. I suppose it comes to us all – as Larkin says – I am someone who is surprising a hunger in himself to be more serious… I hope I’m doing justice to Allyson’s memory, to her strength and spirit, and to the memory of all those who have suffered enough to have been driven to suicide. I hope that the show might go some way to convince people who think the law as it stands is a good law, to think again. Edinburgh in festival time is the same, mad, joyous, desperate refugee camp of jugglers as ever it was, and it feels strange to be here with such a quiet and sombre story.
An Instinct for Kindness
Pleasance Jack Dome
16:10 (70 mins)
3-29 August (not 10, 17)