I can safely say I have never cooked and eaten a meal during a Fringe show. Even more safely say that I’ve never cooked and eaten a meal whilst chatting about the ethics of assisted suicide. But if this sounds like your cup of tea (well, soup), grab your ticket for The Midnight Soup quick. Numbers are limited by the table size and they’re selling fast.
Leo Burtin’s grandmother committed suicide in 2012. That most considerate or most selfish of crimes, depending on your point of view. 84% of people in the UK have no end of life plan, says Burtin. They might have left instructions about their funeral but they haven’t given any thought – and haven’t documented any requests – when it comes to their end of life care. Inspired by the fact that death is one of the last taboos in modern day Britain, Burtin created this show to encourage people to reflect on the choices they have – and to consider how they might avoid being forced into decisions they wouldn’t have chosen to make.
The premise is simple. His grandmother kept a diary every day of life in which she recorded notable events. The weather. Which of her family members remembered to call her. Chats with the neighbours. Her morning purchases from the bakery (she was French, living in France). Her children and eventually, grandchildren’s escapades. One day, she didn’t write anything. But how many other times had she wondered, debated, decided and undecided to kill herself, Burtin wonders? And what made her choose that particular day instead?
Alongside details of their family life, Burtin efficiently, unobtrusively, distributes ingredients, gets us to chop, makes a base for his ‘midnight soup’, adds more ingredients, breaks bread, simmers the soup. And when his tale is done, we eat. A shared tablecloth, an occasional soundtrack and the soup making choreograph the show which makes for a wonderfully untheatrical, low-key but inclusive experience.
A potentially sombre topic, this is an apparently artlessly assembled reverie about the small stuff. The day the sun peeks through a cloudy sky. The day she bought five eclairs. The day her grandson called as she was buying his birthday present. It’s a reminder that life is full of marvelous things, if only we take time to notice, to document, to value the inconsequential detail. And it’s a reminder of how the little stuff can bring people together to chat about the big stuff.
Burtin has toured the show around the UK, to hospitals, community centres, death cafes and consequently heard about a myriad of people’s experiences. As well as gently, respectfully, raising a vitally important topic in our ageing society, this show is also a reminder that most of us have more in common than we think.