|Whose Life is it Anyway?
by Brian Clark
Directed by Mary Anne Cornu
|19th – 22nd May 2004
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Sculptor Ken Harrison is involved in a car accident which leaves him permanently paralysed from the neck down and totally dependent on others. A strong-minded, passionate man dedicated to his art, Ken decides he does not want to go on living this way, despite opposition from his doctors. He fights to be released from the hospital so that he can stop the care that keeps him alive and unhappy. He is up against the hospital’s medical director, Dr Emerson, who believes in preserving life at all costs.
Despite its serious subject matter, Whose Life Is It Anyway? contains many moments of black humour, due to Ken’s wit and intelligence, which are undiminished by his affliction. The blossoming romance between ward orderly John and student nurse Kay adds another light touch to the story.
The complex issues explored by this play are still relevant today. A recent example of this is motor neuron disease sufferer Diane Pretty’s right-to-die challenge in the European Court of Human Rights. As she put it, ‘I want the right to die at the time of my choosing, with dignity, now that I have lost all function apart from my mind.’
Brian Clark’s Whose Life Is It Anyway? was first performed in 1978 at London’s Mermaid Theatre, starring Tom Conti as Ken. Conti won a Tony award the next year for reprising the role on Broadway. The play was subsequently made into a film starring Richard Dreyfuss.