A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer Offers An Honest Look At Health And Sickness
Newly reinvented for 2018, Bryony Kimmings’ candid cancer musical returns to the stage for a whistle-stop UK tour this year, with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre one of just three venues to host the show ahead of its Australian debut.
Inspired by the stories of real cancer patients, A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer looks behind the pink ribbons and poster campaigns to reveal the messy, sometimes funny and often brutal truth beneath.
Known for her primarily autobiographical work, performance artist Bryony Kimmings has built a reputation for her bold approach to taboo subjects. The idea for A Pacifist’s Guide first emerged during a pitching meeting with Complicite producer Judith Dimant.
“I’m quite a blatant person,” she laughs. “[Judith] turned down everything I suggested and had a bald head and was flinching every time I coughed anywhere near her, so eventually I just asked if she had cancer and if she’d be up for making a piece of work about it.”
What followed was a journey deeper into the Kingdom of the Sick than she could ever have anticipated. As she met up with cancer patients, friendships quickly formed. Meanwhile, her own son became ill, forcing her to “bow out” of the process halfway through.
“Normally my instinct is to always put myself in the shows I write and tell the truth about what happened, but because I was going through this massive trauma, I ended up basically fictionalising myself through this weird voice-over.”
This year, Kimmings will star in the show for the first time, alongside friend and former cancer patient Lara Veitch. The result, she says, is a production that feels much more “truthful”.
“I think what we both discovered by going through all that is that there isn’t really a guide,” she explains. “But if we look each other in the eye and say, ‘This is awful,’ hopefully that makes it much better. You can’t cure cancer with a theatre show but you can certainly have an honest open dialogue about it.”