Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: Captivating Chaotic Cancer of WIT

'I will never forget', says Vivian Bearing played by Julie Hesmondhalgh in the current Royal Exchange play 'WIT', 'the time I found out I had cancer'.  The chaos is situated in the drama and brutish efforts of medical science to do research on Vivian, which in the last scene leads to energetic efforts by the staff to revive Vivian against he wishes. 

Up to then, throughout the play the members of medical profession on hand keep mouthing the repetitious cliques at Vivian  'How are you feeling today?', and 'Keep pushing the fluids!' as the chemotherapy kicks in.  The American accents of the doctors sound about as convincingly caring as the assistants on the tills at Tesco. 

Vivian goes on to ask the audience's forgiveness for the play's conclusion:  'I apologise in advance for what this palliative treatment modality does to the dramatic coherence of my play's last scene,' she says, 'It can't be helped.'  

 The play which is a kind of comedy in that it has the audience laughing, perhaps nervously, throughout, gains intellectual strength from Vivian's life as a devoted scholar and student of the 17th century poet John Donne (1572-1631).  The poem quoted and pondered upon is what Donne had to say about death:

'This is my playes last scene; here heavens appoint

My pilgrimages last mile; and my race,

Idly, yet quickly runne, hath this last pace,

My spans last inch, my minutes latest point;

And gluttonous death will instantly unjoynt

My body, and soule.' 

Death; when er it comes it comes too soon! 

After the play ended it got a standing ovation on the press night.

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