STUDENT BLOG: A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer

Pacifist's Guide 2



Emma Smith, PhD in Deep Ocean Ecosystems 

As the granddaughter of two incredibly strong women who fought the war on cancer I was instantly drawn to this play. I imagine many other people were in my position, as well as people who had been pulled into this war for themselves.  The title interested me too, as I class myself as a pacifist, and the play certainly challenges the stereotypical talk of ‘battles vs. survivors’ that surrounds many cancer campaigns.

Instead the play does what many people would cringe away from, and turns one of the most feared words of our time into a topic for song, rock music, glittery outfits, and honest conversation. With some incredibly funny and heart-warming moments it manages to break down taboo and fear associated with talking about cancer, and in that open space allows for us to connect with what people really need; direct, thoughtful help, while ditching the ‘Cancer Face’ (an expression born from pity, guilt for being well, and fear of saying the wrong thing). 

The play twists and turns through physical and fantastical set design, and some very personal and awkward moments for Kimmings. Moments which are experienced by the audience through the clever and not-so subtle use of light and sound.  Around halfway through the play a second and unexpected lead character is introduced, a surviving cancer warrioress.  Towards the end of the play a local warrioress is invited to share her story with us, bringing this peaceful yet emotional narrative even closer to home.  These personal perspectives take the play to a whole new level; unexpected yet intrinsic to the message the play is relaying.

It’s noticeable that there are no men on stage, however some of the issues that the play covers, such as femininity and mastectomies, make the feminist angle to the play entirely fitting. I’d love to see a similar play that tackles the discrete male issues surrounding cancer, and give it the space it too deserves.

In the last minutes of the performance, cast and crew sit on the edge of the stage in a gesture to close the gap between the play and the audience, and invite the crew to repeat the names of loved ones who have passed on due to cancer. The audience are then invited to do the same.  Many people took this opportunity to voice the name of their loved ones, and through my streaming tears I could not voice the names of those I miss so much, Nanna Marion and Nan Barbara.  Cathartic, bittersweet tears that I was happy to shed.


If you missed out on this play, don’t worry! Take a look at our new booklet with all of your FREE and discounted events for 2018, including plenty more exciting shows from the Playhouse theatre.


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