Theatre review: An Instinct for Kindness at Trafalgar Studios

16:48 14 April 2012

An Instinct For Kindness. Written and performed by Chris Larner, directed by Hannah Eidinow. Picture by Geraint Lewis

An Instinct For Kindness. Written and performed by Chris Larner, directed by Hannah Eidinow. Picture by Geraint Lewis

geraint@geraintlewis.com 07831413452

Stirring one-man play sees Chris Larner tell the tragic story of his ex-wife’s assisted suicide

» Two years ago, Chris Larner took his ex-wife Allyson, in chronic pain with multiple sclerosis, to Dignitas in Switzerland to help her die.

The idea to turn his story into a play first came to him on the day that Allyson swallowed the bitter and lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital, but he was “immediately repulsed with myself for thinking such a thing”.

Later he revisited the idea, finding some catharsis in playing out her last years, months and, in great detail, her last day on this planet in front of an audience. And after a sell-out run in Edinburgh last year, Larner has brought his one-man play to the appropriately intimate setting of Studio 2 at The Trafalgar Studios.

The instinct for kindness to which the title refers is expressed in a small moment between Larner and the chambermaid who is present in the background at much of Allyson and Larner’s stay in Switzerland.

“Is better for you now. I think so,” she says to Larner. But it’s Larner’s instinct for kindness which is very apparent in this story – having split from his wife after having a son, he affectionately cites Allyson’s compulsive cleanliness as the main reason for their divorce. But staying firm friends, Larner remained very much in Allyson’s life while the MS took hold and ultimately rendered her physically helpless and in constant pain.

The play focuses very much on the story and not on his reflections of it. Larner’s talent for dramatic structure is clear, as he plays with chronology and pace so that the 75 minutes of him talking directly to us remains engaging throughout.

In painstaking but fascinating detail, Larner describes the process of Dignitas from its expensive membership to the near impossible task of finding a notary who is willing to be complicit in what is an illegal act in the UK (assisting suicide) to what actually happens in the eerie portacabins in Switzerland.

In the absence of any deep emotive reflection from Larner you find yourself turning inwards – “How would I feel? What would I do?” – and, needless to say, it’s a heavy but incredibly powerful experience.

* An Instinct for Kindness is at Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, SW1, until April 28.

Latest Stories

The man is seen without his wig, walking on the opposite side of the road (Picture: Metropolitan Police)

A brazen thief donned a ‘Rastafarian-style’ dreadlock wig and hat before running up to a woman on a street in north east London, stealing her handbag and leaving her with a broken arm.

Read more
Fancy somewhere different for dinner? [Photo courtesy of Events In The Sky]

This new London restaurant in Canary Wharf perched high in the sky lets diners experience Michelin-starred food from 100ft up.

Read more
11:51
The killer shark lurking among the fish in the Islington shop

An animatronic shark was installed in a fishmongers in Islington to scare the hell out of customers and promote unlikely sequel Sharknado 2.

Read more

Top Stories

Promotions

Renault-Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

London24 have partnered up with The Week magazine to offer you a complimentary issue – delivered free to your door.

Quizzes

But which London?! [Photo courtesy of Basher Eyre]

Yoou might know London like the back of your hand, but how well do you know the other Londons - and London landmarks - across the world?

Read more
The prize is glory (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

It used to be Manhattan that was famous for its majestic skyline, but now our fair city is catching up. Do you know your Shard from your Heron Tower?

Read more
Test your London musical knowledge with our album quiz (Images via Getty)

Does your music knowledge stretch from The Rolling Stones to Rudimental, Spandau Ballet to Siouxsie and the Banshees? If so then test it out with our London bands quiz:

Read more