Shakespeare famously described life as a stage, upon which we can play many roles and, ultimately, make our final exit.
The Bard didn’t shy away from death in many of his famous dramas, while more recently, the death positive movement has begun to inspire new playwrights to address dying matters in creative and thought-provoking ways.
The stage has been set for a number of new and contemporary plays and films during 2018. They may galvanise you to be more conversant with death, think about your own end of life care – or simply move and inspire you.
Here’s a pick of 10 dramas and film screenings taking place in the coming weeks and months at venues around the UK.
Outside the Box: A Live Show about Death
Liz Rothschild is a performer, celebrant and organic farmer, who also looks after a woodland burial ground. She’s also behind the death-positive Kicking The Bucket festival, held every two years in Oxfordshire.
Liz’s unique insights and encounters with death have inspired her to create a beautiful show that she’s taking on the road throughout 2018. Funny, enlightening and challenging, Outside the Box combines tales and truths about death’s taboos. It embraces mortality and confronts death with grace and humour.
Showing at various venues throughout the UK from May to November. For more information, visit www.fullcircleproductions.org.uk.
Fighting for Life
Inspired by a real-life story, Brian Daniel’s play, Fighting for Life is about James and Joan Findlay. After 60 years of marriage, Joan was diagnosed with dementia, leaving husband James as her primary carer.
But, things get complicated when doctors discover that James has motor neurone disease. The moving story follows the Findlay family and how they navigate their lives around the health and social care system to keep James and Joan together.
You can find out about further dates and venues throughout the year, here.
Also written by Brian Daniels, this two-hander drama is based on letters written by Lesley Goodburn to the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who cared for her husband Seth before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer.
The play is intended to help people involved in end of life care to connect to the innate humanity that’s so important for patient and family-centred care, when end of life is near.
During Dying Matters Awareness Week, it’s being staged at a number of venues, while Lesley Goodburn will host a question-and-answer session following a screening of a film version of the play at Bath University’s Centre for Death & Society on May 17.
A Love That Never Dies
After the death of their son in Southeast Asia six years ago, Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds set off on a roadtrip across the US. Here, they talked to other bereaved families about their individual experiences with grief.
A Love That Never Dies premiers at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square on May 18, with screenings scheduled around the UK including Birmingham on May 21. Visit alovethatneverdiesfilm.com for more dates and locations.
"Hello My Name Is…"
Doctor Kate Granger’s rare cancer diagnosis made her a patient overnight. As she observed life from a hospital bed, she began to lose her sense of personal identity.
It wasn’t until a porter arrived, introducing himself to Kate saying: “Hello, my name is Brian and I’m going to be taking care of you” that she felt her feelings of self-worth restored.
This inspired Kate to launch a social media campaign, #hellomynameis, to inspire healthcare professionals looking after patients to do the same.
The campaign is now recognised world-wide. This play, written by Brian Daniels, was commissioned by St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds, which cared for Kate in the final stage of her illness.
It premieres there on May 18, with other shows scheduled around the UK. Visit hellomynameis.org.uk for dates and locations.
The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad
The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad is a children’s show about bereavement. It follows Frank, an inquisitive little boy with a big problem: he’s just ‘lost’ his mum. The play follows Frank on his adventure to find her.
There are scavenger hunts, puzzles and dancing in this sensitive play about grief and love.
The Birth of Death
Described as a comic-tragic show ‘for the dead and dying, and those who care for them’ this solo performance by Joanne Tremarco explores the poignant end of life conversations she shared with her mother.
In her professional life, Joanne is an end-of-life doula or ‘soul midwife’, providing emotional and practical support to people as they transition towards death in the final days of their life.
Her show will be taking place at The Edge/Friction Arts centre in Birmingham on May 19. Visit BrumYodo for more information.
That Good Night
The Reading Film Theatre is hosting a screening of That Good Night — a family drama, following the story of Ralph, a once famous writer in his seventies, who is now terminally ill. As he reunites with his long-abandoned son, Michael, Ralph looks set to ruin all hope of reconciliation when he picks a fight with Michael’s girlfriend. The film is being screened on June 7. For more information visit readingfilmtheatre.co.uk.
A Family Undertaking
London’s Natural Death Salon is screening American documentary, A Family Undertaking, which focuses on the home funerals of two people: Anne and Bernard. The film goes through each and every step of the home undertaking process; from the designing and decorating of the coffin, to preparing someone’s body, and their burial.
These family-organised home funerals are a remarkable document of death made intimate, meaningful and even joyful. The film will be followed by a group discussion to consider the talking-points raised. The screening will be taking place on May 20 in Willesden Green NW2, as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week. More information here.
Next Door but One
York community arts collective Next Door But One will be staging an evening of improvised performance – including stories of life, death and everything in between – at the York St John University Temple Hall from 6.30pm on May 18. It’s part of a host events taking place during York’s Dead Good Festival.