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A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer review

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer Is a Show Everyone Must See

~ a guest blog by Cheish Merryweather


A musical about cancer sounds garish, tasteless and unpredictable. Bryony Kimmings’ A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer is anything but that – this is a sensational emotional journey that knocks the wind out of you. Showing now at the Northern Stage; you will laugh, you will cry (don’t worry the ensemble have spare tissues to hand) and you will rethink everything you know about cancer and the lives it affects.

Kimmings – who comes across like a lass you could have a pint with at the pub and chat to for hours – tackles not just the subject of cancer itself but the language people use when it’s brought into the conversation. Buzzwords like “battle” and “bravery”, the classic ‘cancer face’ which is a look of upset but also a supportive nod of the head, alongside the “I can’t believe this is happening to my friend” pity party for the self-absorbed – it’s all unnecessary.

On stage, Kimmings becomes the narrator interjecting just enough comedy, spliced in between the harrowing testimonials of cancer patients she interviewed and recorded. Hearing the voices of these women tell their stories, with the bodies provided by the cast members, gets right into the soul of the person – scrapping the usual ‘commercial cancer’ that, as mentioned in the show, comes across as if patients should always be punching the air and running 10km fundraisers at the weekend.

One of the stand out numbers is The Kingdom of the Sick before Lara Veitch takes to the stage and talks through her story. Lara, not being an actress herself but a ‘real person’, is a fierce and naturally funny woman who in less than 90-minutes has a warmth about her that leaves you feeling like you’ve known her for years. She also opens your eyes to the gender politics surrounding the disease, proving that everyday sexism isn’t left at the hospital doors.

This is likely why she bonded with Kimmings, as the two shared a journey into the kingdom of the sick when Kimmings’ baby son was struck with a serious illness and their relationship became more than writer and subject as a deeper connection between them had evolved.

Semi-autobiographical, semi-musical and semi-spiritual awakening – A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer must be seen at local theatres as this is one show that will catch on as it is deserving of very big things.


~ a guest blog by Cheish Merryweather




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