‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’
Book by Bryony Kimmings & Brian Lobel, music by Tom Parkinson and lyrics by Bryony Kimmings.
I recently caught the last performance of Bryony Kimmings’s A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre.
During the first act, we’re introduced to people with various cancers at various stages of their diagnoses through Amanda (played by the wonderful Amanda Hadingue), a single mum facing the prospect of her four-month-old son having cancer. The musical numbers are moving, haunting and surreal as each character deals with the reality of cancer. Some of the most moving moments came from Laura (masterfully and movingly played by Golda Rosheuvel) in the final stages of ovarian cancer and not ready to face her end and the young man (Gary Wood) trying to deal with testicular cancer on his own.
The twist came in the second act when Amanda stops to ask the writer (the ever present voice of Bryony Kimmings) a question and it’s revealed that the characters are real people with real stories met when Bryony was navigating the NHS with her four-month-old son. Laura, the woman facing a terminal diagnosis was an actress and singer who stopped singing but found her voice in her final weeks. The cast as themselves invited two of the people whose stories we were witnessing onto the stage to give their hopes for the future and invited the audience to name the people they wanted to remember who had been affected by cancer.
Needless to say, it was very affecting and probably one of the few times as a theatre goer I’ve been asked to face the truth. I can see why the reviews have been mixed but I found it a profoundly moving and challenging piece of true theatre