We’ve been doing a few Fringe previews based on thematic threads that can be found in the programme, but this year, as for a few years now, there’s one that is ready made for us – Death on the Fringe.
Death on the Fringe, now in its third year, is part of the year-round Scottish charity initiative Good Life Good Death Good Grief, which aims to make Scotland a place where there is more openness about death, dying and bereavement. There’s no real taboo around one of life’s inevitables – taxes – unless you’re a Tory MP, and yet people are often reluctant, or feel awkward, talking about the other one, a situation which can add isolation, frustration and powerlessness to the many other feelings that surround a death or terminal illness diagnosis.
Not that it’s all doom and gloom at Death on the Fringe. Events range from the deadly serious to the lethally funny, but they all share the common feature of making audiences think about what it means to live well and die well.
For a start, Death on the Fringe provides a fantastic opportunity to hear leading academics and healthcare practitioners share their expertise. For those who’ve ever wondered about near-death experiences or death bed visions, Professor Allan Kellehear of Bradford University evaluates the explanations given for them in his lecture Mystical Experiences At The End Of Life – Really? at the Quaker Meeting House on Tue 23 Aug. The following evening at the same venue, Dr Sally Paul of Strathclyde University asks the question What Happens To Dead People’s Bodies? Specifically, how do we answer that question when children ask? Both lectures are part of this year’s Just Festival.
Death on the Fringe has also paired with the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas in St. Andrew’s Square to present Edinburgh University’s Professor Scott Murray. As Professor Murray himself says, “dying is a universal human activity and it shows no sign of abating”. So is it time to start asking yourself when, where and how you would like to die? Bringing Death Back To Life is on Tue 9 Aug at 3pm.
TV doctor and comedian, Phil Hammond has two shows as part of Death on the Fringe. In Life and Death (But Mainly Death), Dr Phil reflects on life, the death of two dads, and his mum still gate-vaulting at eighty, while in Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution, he’s joined by Glasgow Dr Margaret McCartney, to see if we can set the venerable institution straight (the NHS that is, not Dr Phil). Both events are at theSpace @ Symposium Hall throughout the Fringe.
But beyond the lecture series, Death on the Fringe also offers performances. Eddie Small (interviewed here about his play The Four Marys) presents The Death Pantomime at St John’s Church on Sat 6 Aug in which two female corpses start talking in a funeral parlour about their respective deaths, eighty years apart. What can it mean?
A Dream of Dying tells the astonishing real life tale of a body washed ashore in Sligo in Ireland. Who was he? How did he get there? It’s an investigation that remains unsolved. Lawrence Boothman, who played in Alba: The Musical, one of the hits of Fringe 2014, stars in the one-man show at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall.
At the same venue in the last week of the Fringe, Little Wolfie, an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Lille Eyolf, explores many different kinds of loss. While at Paradise in Augustine’s, Dark Heart is the debut musical thriller by writer/composer Jessica Avellino. It follows one woman’s struggle for her sanity after the death of her sister.
Summerhall is the hang-out for many during the Fringe. If you’re there early doors (before twelve counts as early doors during the Fringe), check out Liz Rothschild, performer, celebrant and manager of an award-winning burial ground as she spills the beans in Outside The Box: A Live Show About Death.
Actress Bella Heesom lost both her parents, and from that experience created My World Has Exploded A Little Bit, a logical, philosophical guide to managing mortality. Together with a hapless, piano-playing assistant, she’ll be entertaining Underbelly Cowgate crowds with this darkly comic story which was judged “spine tingling in its raw honesty” by London reviewers.
Talking of comic, after all that, you might need a laugh. Plenty are provided by Melbourne comedian and breast cancer survivor, Lana Schwarcz in her show Lovely Lady Lump, an award winner at the Ottawa Fringe. Jokes, yes, laughs, yes, but inevitably one or two poignant bits that will make you reflect. She’s at Gilded Balloon Teviot.
The Fringe is all about good times, of course, but all life (and death) is here. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get to grips with one of the issues we all have to face. It might just prompt you to live your life better.
Full Death on the Fringe programme at www.deathonthefringe.org.uk
Follow Death on the Fringe on Twitter @DeathOnFringe