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Preview: Whose Life Is It Anyway?

21 May 24

Director LilyAnn Green previews her production of Whose Life Is It Anyway?

What inspired you to direct this play?

I was a psychology/drama student at university when the play won Tony awards in 1980. It caught my attention because I was the Social Activities Manager at a long stay hospital where one patient was a quadriplegic – as is the lead character.


He was studying at a local university, a good shuffleboard and chess player, using a stick he held in his mouth. His doctor prescribed him two beers a day because it was the only way he could have alcohol ‘at home’. The character of Claire reminds me of him in her intelligence and humour but not her outlook.


I worked with Stephen Clark in the late 1980s and tried not to fan-girl too much over his father! In 2005 he rewrote it – setting it back in England, with a female protagonist played by Kim Cattrall. Clark said the rule of theatre is ‘whoever is funny is right’, so in the re-write he gave Dr Emerson more humorous lines to even the odds! He also united the role of Psychiatrist with Dr Emerson, made the Judge female, Dr Scott male and the solicitor female.


Just as we started rehearsals the news came that Scotland and the Isle of Man were considering making Assisted Suicide legal, so we realised the timing was very apt. Of course, this law would not help Claire. She just wants control of her own life. Any other patient could get themselves out the front door of the hospital and take control of their own destiny. She cannot.

Actors rehearsing whose life

Who are the characters we'll meet in the play?

Claire Harrison is an intelligent, witty sculptor who was in a car accident and is now a quadriplegic. We meet her nurses; the senior sister and the nursing student, the rapping porter who cleans her room, and her doctors. One of the doctors is young and wants the best for his patients, but on their terms if possible. The other is older and set in his ways, believing that he knows what is best. We also meet the old school social worker who believes in the doctors and a lawyer that Claire gets to help her. And of course we have the judge who holds her life in her hands.


Actors rehearsing

How has the rehearsal process been?

For the most part enjoyable and fun. I have such a great cast who all get on so well. We laugh a lot! It is a very humorous play, witty, moving and thought provoking. And everyone helps get set up and pack up. We have a lot of props and currently use three tables to make a bed!


Actors rehearsing

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I hope for some really good debates in the bar afterwards.


Actors rehearsing

Can you sum up the play in three words?

Witty, moving, thought-provoking.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? runs 11-15 June at South London Theatre

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