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Assisted Suicide – The Musical review at Southbank Centre, London – ‘sharply scripted’

Claire Willoughby in Assisted Suicide The Musical at Southbank Centre, London. Photo: Manuel Vason
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One of the joys of musical theatre is that it can be used to tell practically any story. While Assisted Suicide – The Musical doesn’t have a linear narrative, it explores a complex and emotive subject with an activist’s fervour, exploring salient points with musical numbers and diffusing any awkwardness with wry humour.

Creator Liz Carr, perhaps best known as Clarissa Mullery from the BBC’s Silent Witness, uses her not inconsiderable talent as a comedian to front the show. It chronicles her own journey as an activist. Assuming the role of a suicide tourist, she takes a first-hand look at the reality of countries that have adopted an Assisted Suicide Bill.

Carr states her case with eloquence and humour, combining stand-up commentary with dramatic scenes. A fictional marketing team is drafted in to create a more palatable moniker for assisted suicide. She also explores the peculiarity of finding an ally in the Roman Catholic Church.

The supporting ensemble includes Claire Willoughby, entertainingly discussing alternative options as Palliative Claire, and David James, whose touching personal testimony as a senior citizen lends perspective to the piece.

Composer Ian Hill has fashioned a score to mirror the satirical tone of the piece, selecting a variety of musical styles from vaudeville to the romantic ballad. The chief problem with the production in its current form is that the recorded soundtrack doesn’t do justice to the musical numbers. The sound and lighting also seem under-rehearsed.

Presented as part of the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, the show definitely merits a longer run, but it could also do with being much tighter technically.

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Sharply and smartly scripted and scored musical satire that requires some tightening up