death and the theatre

Whilst death and love are probably the two biggest and constant themes of theatre in general, it’s good to see death being a central character in a number of new plays.  It’s all an encouraging sign of how our culture is opening up slowly but surely more and more to death, every act of creation being a further blow to our death denying culture.

An award winning series of shows ran together as Death on the Fringe at this years Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The shows included a musical thriller;  a stand up comic who survived breast cancer;  The Death Pantomine featuring the corpses of two women in a funeral parlour who start talking to each other; and Little Wolfie, a new adaption of a hard hitting Ibsen play about many kinds of loss.

Meanwhile, from Brighton, Dead Happy is a one-man play with a twist – your home is the venue for an intimate and affecting theatre experience impossible to achieve in a conventional venue.  Simon Lovat (aka Vidyadhara) plays funeral director Francis Putlock, who arrives at your door for a consultation. Following rave reviews at the Brighton Fringe Festival this year Dead Happy is available for bookings in Sussex for £75, London for £100, and by negotiation for further afield.  It’s a social experiment and if ten people come, it’s as cheap as chips (nearly).

Wandering around the streets of the Mission today I was enjoying all the window displays appearing to mark both Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead.  And I’m sorry I’ll miss San Francisco’s cutting edge Dance Brigade performing their highly aclaimed multi-media dance drama to mark both of these festivals that are so popular here.  The Great Liberation Upon Hearing follows the bardo experience as depicted in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

And then I discovered playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie’s simple and cogent adaption of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and his stunning production of it premiered as a play in New York 1983, and as an opera in Houston 1996.  Make sure you scroll down and don’t miss the set.