Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wall of Death v Wall of Silence

The “Wall of Death” motor-cycle stunt show is currently drawing audiences at the St Helier People’s Park as part of the Jersey motoring festival of speed.
The cars and bikes are giving us another chance to confront death at the sprint and hill climb events. Death is everywhere – in the news, at the cinema, in literature and even our popular songs. We cannot get enough of it. Murder, war, the wild-west or history – we just cannot see too much of tragic death.

Yet I “reluctantly” attended Chris Larner’s one man show “An Instinct for Kindness” at the Arts Centre yesterday evening and was enthralled and impaled.
Tragedy, pathos and humour – the three musketeers of theatre – were here all right but I was confronted by a reality that we should all experience. It is something that “society” as a whole needs to address and discuss.

This is not a review of Chris Larner’s extraordinary play. I don’t understand theatre enough to attempt that but I am amazed that one person can fill a stage with characters and images with no other prop than a chair.
But even the chair acted its legs off. As a wheelchair, hospital bed, airline seat it was presumably predictable enough but this was also an empty chair dammit! Somebody was of course ultimately missing…
And the lighting was perfect and poignant. Don’t ask me how or why, it just was.

If you have already looked at the video interview with Chris Larner here you will know what this is all about.
It is a very personal and painful experience that Chris has “acted out” seventy times all around Britain. He must ride the “Wall of Death” at every performance and I have no idea how he does it.

In every audience there will be many people who have knowledge and or experience of the subject matter.  Some might even be considering the one way trip to Switzerland that ends in “assisted suicide.”
After this Jersey performance there were people discussing their own experiences among themselves and it was simply surprising to hear the similar concerns being spoken.
In other places, performances have been followed by an organised discussion so that audiences can participate to some purpose. This did not happen in Jersey but there surely must be a much wider discussion here soon of the issues raised by Chris.

So far we have only had the Jersey Minister of Health’s recent personal declaration that she will not contemplate any change in Jersey law or practice. This was in response to a UK Report that urged a review of current practices in the UK and of course, she is a nurse who cared for her own terminally ill late husband.
Jersey’s doctors, lawyers and other professionals are, so it seems, determined to remain silent - which is a great pity because the discussion needs steering based upon knowledge.

It is especially relevant that this current posting follows on from that on “Changing Places” and the provision of the £88,000 public toilet in St Helier for the use of severely disabled persons in Jersey. There are so many questions and there is not a Chris to speak every disabled person’s thoughts or defend their rights - but at what cost should we try to prolong or support life?
Of course that name “Changing Places” is very deliberately chosen because it invites us all to put ourselves in the empty chair.
What would WE want if our unlucky number comes up or we have to manage the painful death of a most beloved companion?

Chris has become involved in the UK campaign “Dignity in dying” and this can be contacted via Google or

My own agenda seeks a discussion of the wider issue of suicide in Jersey because this is at a very high level within this little community.
My previous posting on the death of Ronnie Allan addresses many related matters but so far, seems to have provoked little response.

Thanks Chris


  1. The post is very informative. It is a pleasure reading it. I have also bookmarked you for checking out new posts.

  2. What a refreshing point of view your interviewee brings to this hard subject. I have already discussed this speculative discussion about going to Dignitas and not returning with my husband but yet have to discuss it with my family. Presently I don't know when or if I will follow through when there is no other hope.

    My views were arrived at as I often discussed this matter with my mother who had a painful disease that would mean her suffering a terrible death having lingered in pain. She died before she had made a decision to take the final step which is what she wanted. I miss her but respected her decision and thoughts and agree with her views.