Today I’ve been in a room with Chris, my friend of more than 20 years and co-founder of Unlimited. We are talking about death. Talking about how we don’t talk about it enough. Not just me and him, but All Of Us. Most specifically, All Of Us Who Are Lucky Enough To Live In This Safe, First World Nation where we are, for the most part, insulated from any direct contact with death. And when it does happen to people we know or are close to, who are friends or family, it most often happens in hospitals and (as much as it can be) is controlled and managed and then tidied away.
Because if we did (talk about it more openly and with less fear) then maybe we’d have a healthier relationship with “it” and, more importantly, with each other?
So we’re making a show called “Am I Dead Yet?”, which we hope will go some small way to helping develop a better, healthier conversation around death and dying. And it’s a tricky subject because everyone has a very personal relationship with death, based on our individual experiences of it, but it’s actually a brilliantly optimistic conversation to be having and a lot more fun than you’d think.
As research for the show we’ve been consulting with scientists and doctors (most brilliantly Dr Andy Lockey of Calderdale Health Trust) working at the leading edge of developments in emergency care and particularly those dealing with people who have experienced sudden cardiac arrest – heart failure. We’ve learnt that it is possible for people whose hearts have stopped and are therefore technically dead, to have no heart beat for increasingly long periods of time and yet be resuscitated with no neurological damage. If they receive the right sort of care as quickly as possible. Most famously the footballer Fabrice Muamba whose heart stopped suddenly during an FA Cup 6th round match in 2012, was technically dead for 78 minutes before his heart was restarted and he could get on with living again.
In the future, these lengths of time will increase and it’s likely that we’ll be able to resuscitate people who’ve been dead for many hours, even days. Death is no longer a moment – it is a process. A process that can be reversed.
And while none of the scientists we are working with will commit to saying this, if technology continues to keep pace with the theories then the logical extension is that in the future, death may become simply an option. For those that can afford it. It sounds sci-fi right now (well, it is right now) but the future is only a heartbeat away.
On Thursday 27 March we’ll be sharing a work in progress of “Am I Dead Yet?” as part of the Transform festival at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. We’re a resident company at the Playhouse and have been working together for the last couple of years to run workshops, scratch nights and develop audiences for new contemporary theatre and Transform is a real highlight of the year for this. 2014’s line up is better than ever – biased as I am, I can honestly and wholeheartedly recommend EVERYTHING in the programme. As well as giving a rare insight to work in early stages (like ours) there are fully formed shows from some of the UK’s most brilliant contemporary theatre companies, a stunning Variety Night and opportunities to meet all the artists involved. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Welcome to the shows. We hope you can make it.