Death -it’s one of the taboo subjects in Britain. We are not very adept at dealing with the demise of a loved one, family member, friend.
We still stick to tradition and the very act of saying goodbye is dark and dingy and not very jolly. I once saw in a funeral procession in New Orleans Royale Street - a jazz band, songs, laughter, handclaps, smiles; it was a celebration of a life lived, rather than the passing of a human.
Thanks to Prince Harry the mental issues left in the wreckage of a death will be examined in fine detail when the grieving process could be much less of a sombre affair. The counter argument is that we all salute the death of a kin or a pal in different ways.
As we all know, when we are younger, we are immortal and the very thought of death is somewhere far over the hill. A few grey hairs later, and we are reaching for our pens to make a will and our minds start racing back to the days when we reckoned we would live forever. Just how we should recognise the death of someone who is close to our mind, body and spirit is always going to be up for debate. Do we ultimately fall back on tradition or do we decide that the person being despatched to the soil or the furnace has to go out with a big bang, with bells and whistles sounding off at full volume.
I personally am at the age when yes, dying, is not too far up around the bend and it won’t be too long before I dwell on the subject and inform those closest to me just how I want to leave the world - either in a sea of black and or with my favourite music blasting out of enormous speakers and everyone I know or passed on the road enjoying a damn good knees up in full colour.
Actress and award winning burial ground owner Liz Rothschild has a fair knowledge of bereavement under her belt and she has written and is currently performing her one hour work on the taboo of death, Outside the Box, up and down the land.
She brought the piece to the Crown Inn in Oxted, thanks to Lucy Linger Moore’s Threadbare Theatre Company and the Oxted Crown Inn’s Play at the Pub Productions they scouted Outside The Box from the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is a sign that the pub will perhaps be staging more work from outside the Threadbare production line.
Cleverly tagged as ‘a live show about death’ Liz performs this one woman journey in and around the subject of dying with courage, conviction and a desire to inspire discussion about bereavement. She uses a wove basket coffin as the only major prop on stage -into which she later sits and lies down in. It is at that point the audience has to decide whether they would openly speak about a passing or shrug the shoulders and head off to bar for a drink without a backward glance.
There are times during Liz’s delivery of her stories, anecdotes and observations on dying that I personally felt I was in a university classroom, listening to a lecture on the subject from a professor of death. On other occasions there was wit and wisdom and a hint or two of laughter.
At the end of the performance Liz asks the audience for short recollections of handling death. These she will examine and use in future shows to prove that Outside The Box is as real as it can get when dissecting a topic many will want avoid for as long as possible. She is to be congratulated for breaking the taboo.
And the Threadbare Theatre Company is to be patted on the back for starting to introduce local audiences to groundbreaking work.
Words: Kevin Black