English Professor Vivian Bearing, just fifty years old, is at her wit’s end when she is told by her Doctor that she has stage four ovarian cancer. She has to enter hospital straight away to commence chemotherapy treatment.
We watch the Professor as she navigates the hospital system; the drips, the chemo and the constant attention of nurses and Doctors. When she does have those times when no-one is around, she directly addresses us with the thoughts racing around her brain.
John Donne’s poetry is central to her thoughts, especially his most well known work, his Holy Sonnet X ‘Death Be Not Proud’., which goes ‘Death be not proud/though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for though art not so’ and ends with ‘one short sleep past, we wake eternally and death shall be no more/death thou shalt die’.
The Professor’s struggle with her mortality is a poignant one. Close to the end, her favourite nurse Susie has a heart to heart talk with her and tells her she has to give staff an important directive. When she stops breathing, does she want the staff to resuscitate her or have a DNR order in place, an order not to resuscitate. The Professor chooses the order not to resuscitate.
American playwright Margaret Edson’s play is a Pulitzer Prize in Drama winner. It is a powerful piece, and Helen Tonkin’s production serves the play well. The performances were all good, led by Cheryl Ward as the Professor who devoted her life to intellectual pursuits and now finds herself alone and without any family of her own to be with her at the final stage in her life journey..
This was a sad, reflective night at the theatre, making us ponder ou own life choices. A Clock and Spiel production WIT is playing the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre until Saturday 26th October, 2019.