Welcome, come talk to us..!

17 Jul

S&DrightsizlogoWelcome to the forum and blog for Killing Roger; a place  to open out the questions others are afraid to ask, a space to share personnal stories and experiences and an opportunity to react to the show and its subject matter.  We will be periodically posting short blog entries from an exciting line up of guest writers including artists, medical ethics experts, carers, media figures as well as the cast and crew of Killing Roger.

Sparkle and Dark received an overwhelming reaction to Killing Roger’s London premiere at Little Angel Theatre earlier this year in March. Personal stories poured from our audience, some heartbreaking, some astonishing and some shocking and these stories inspired Sparkle and Dark to connect with the subject, beyond the show.  This forum has been creted to keep the conversation going beyond the theatre, and so we encourage you to write comments and reply to the blog entries featured.  Join the debate!

These blogs will appear during Sparkle and Dark’s run of Killing Roger at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe  this year.  The show is a  remarkable tale of Billy and Roger, our two unlikely heroes who together face the consequences of a small yet life-changing question; “Could you kill someone Billy…?” Out of this simple personal story emerge complex themes, which transcend theatre and are currently subject to a national legal and ethical debate.

Killing Roger is coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year at the Underbelly, 12:40pm 1st-25th July – click here for booking details.

Novelest Hazel McHaffie talks about being Stronger Together…

23 Aug

Hazel-McHaffieIn the midst of an extensive and diverse career in both the medical and social science fora, Hazel McHaffie has combined her accumulated expertise and creativity in her eight acclaimed medical ethics novels. Hailed as an ‘intensely readable’ writer by Alexander McCall Smith, Hazel’s gripping novels are recommended for anyone challenged by the dilemmas of modern medicine.

Wow! All at once a whole new network is opening up before my eyes. Brilliant.

I’m an academic-turned-novelist, committed to bringing the challenging issues thrown up by modern medicine to life through fiction. My eighth novel is due out next month, released into a world much more receptive to the use of art to illuminate science that it was 19 years ago when my first one was published.

In a former life I was Deputy Director of Research in the Institute of Medical Ethics, with privileged access to ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events in their lives. A fascinating job. I’m no longer quite sure where the goalposts are; there’s no assured monthly salary; but living with fictional characters through imagined dramas that raise fundamental questions about what’s right and wrong, well, that brings all the different parts of me together – scientific, moral, spiritual, artistic. Immensely exciting and fulfilling.

And that’s how I see this new project developing: merging all the component parts that together create a powerful, well-informed and challenging voice that reaches people.

To see Hazel’s review of Killing Roger click here

Ann Lingard is telling tales…

13 Aug

home-annCrossing boundaries’  between science and the arts: Ann Lingard  – as a scientist and fiction-writer – has always enjoyed weaving the two cultures together.

After a first career as an academic and research scientist at Cambridge and Glasgow Universities, working on immunity to parasites, Ann ‘leapt off the career ladder’ to take up a second career in writing and broadcasting.


‘You should have been terminated,’ one ‘talking head’ says to the other, an achondroplasic. This hard-hitting but very amusing short video by Professor of Genetics John Burn and my friend Dr Tom Shakespeare points up one of the ethical and personal dilemmas of genetic pre-diagnosis.

The start of life, the end of life: recently a dying friend was kept alive for several days, unconscious and hallucinating, to the great distress of his wife. ‘You wouldn’t do that to a dog,’ another friend commented. How true – and after my collie was ‘euthanased’ I buried her on our land.

Amongst exhibits at the Surgeons’ Hall Museum is a skeleton of an achondroplasic girl and a skeleton of a woman who died in 1800 after being delivered of her child by Caesarian section. Neither would have wanted to be there, in an anatomy collection – indeed, the woman had been buried in a churchyard.

There are so many stories to tell, about the beginnings and endings of people’s lives. Whether these are true or fictionalised, as a writer one has to find a way to do this, to engage and provoke the reader, with humour and humanity and above all, a sense of privilege.

For more about Ann’s most recent novel, The Embalmer’s Book of Recipes, and for the videos about achondroplasia, see http://www.annlingard.com/writing/novels/the-embalmers-book-of-recipes/

For the human stories of some of the Surgeons’ Hall exhibits, see http://www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/forum/creativespace/creativewriting/tellthemourstoriesannlingard/, and ‘Viewing and Consent’ in BioNews, http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_141797.asp

Patricia Murray explains why she can never see Million Dollar Baby again…

6 Aug

Tricia_small1Patricia Murray is the Development Officer at the Mason Insitute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law (www.masoninstitute.org).  Her post below represents her personal views and is not necessarily representative of the Mason Institute.

I’m really looking forward to Sparkle and Dark’s production of Killing Roger. I’m anticipating a slight emotional rollercoaster taking into accounts my own feelings about death, dying and human dignity. Will this show change how I feel, will it embed any of my own feelings, and will it make me feel more emotional and passionate about the issues surrounding choice and death. For me, art can help to raise questions but good art that is well presented can often not only heighten emotions, it can make them override any sensible viewpoints. Many of us have seen Million Dollar Baby. That is one film I cannot re-watch. It’s such a great example of good art. Seeing a character full of life, physical strength and bravado as Maggie (the boxer), become so disabled and in such suffering. I was so relieved when her trainer, Frankie, fulfils her strong wishes and decides to take her life as we know that her new life, for her, is unbearable given her previous existence as a champion boxer. It’s such a heart wrenching film. There are also so many real-life cases where we are well aware of the wishes of those suffering. Art can often represent a black and white view of what’s conceived to be right and wrong and in Million Dollar Baby it was so right that Maggie’s wishes were met and Frankie helped her to die. However, this often doesn’t represent the real-life situations with their much more complicated boundaries. The real outcome could have been different in Million Dollar Baby – maybe in real life she could have ‘championed’ women’s boxing and was just having a bit of a ‘rough time’ getting to grips with her new body? We don’t really know as it was portrayed to us in an especially provocative way so we all thought it was the right decision. So, art is something we can use to stimulate debate and inform and influence society but its part of a much bigger picture.

The Mason Institute is arranging with Sparkle and Dark and supported by the Wellcome Trust, two events, first of all a public debate on Assisted Suicide and secondly a symposium looking at how arts can help to stimulate debate in biomedical ethical issues. We’re keen to understand how art can influence the public opinion on issues in biomedical ethics, of course, assisted suicide being one of them, but there are lots of other issues such as reproductive technology, advances in medicine with implantable technologies in the body, the use of animals in human and much more. So how can art help to influence this? How can we get a good reciprocal arrangement between artists, scientists and the publics with open free-flowing discussion? How can we record how the art has influenced people and how can we feed this back into further academic work or policy? How can we inspire artists to use and understand some of the ethical debates to ‘create’ good art?

Both events should provide a lot of good debate, discussion and an opportunity to open the door between artists, ethicists, scientists, and a whole lot more!

The artist’s Dilemma: thoughts from Director Shelley Knowles – Dixon

24 Jul

As40295_457338020630_551205630_6897630_2285916_n Director of Killing Roger, I feel it only fitting to kick of our blog entries with some words of wisdom, inspiration and insight (I say ‘I’, I really mean the company has put me up to this, no pressure of course).

In all truthfulness, there are aspects of the show that terrify me, set my colony of tummy butterflies fluttering and coax my heart from behind my rib cage and into my mouth. One reason for this lies with our audiences: it wasn’t until after our Little Angel premier that I felt an odd sense of responsibility to their emotional and psychological well-being. Someone, whose name I won’t mention, came to me after the show with a few stifled tears in their eyes and said, ‘that was a great show. A little close to the bone for me though as every week I visit my mother and she asks me to kill her.’ They immediately left.

I felt as though I had been winded, this was the first of many that night.  Never, during the making of this show, had I imagined the overwhelming number of truthful and brutal stories that came pouring out of people as they left Little Angel’s bright and friendly auditorium.  ‘What have I done?’ I asked myself.  ‘Am I qualified to provoke such a response? Is it my place? What gives me the right?’  Then it struck me, ‘why have I not heard these stories before?’ I think it is because, as the Killing Roger’s author Lawrence so eloquently put it; we live in a society that is obsessed with life and unable to talk about death.

I then felt a warm wave of vindication and qualification flow over me.  Who is supposed to talk about the things that no one wants to talk about? Whose job is it to ruthlessly question the walls of society? Who is qualified to cause extreme emotional and ideological reactions in people?  The artists, of course! Despite this small epiphany, the fear promptly started to creep back in, but this is probably due to the fact that I have the anxious and fragile mind of an artist.