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Death has been described as the last great taboo of our age. Yet it seems to me that death and dying have been well and truly outed. Open a newspaper and you'll find John Diamond facing the consequences of cancer. Turn on the TV and if Oprah isn't helping a studio of people overcome their grief, some soap opera will be showing an individual being snuffed out by a rate incurable disease that nobody has ever heard of, or an entire community rubbed out by a billion-to-one catastrophe. Not since the 17th century and the Jacobean revenge playwrights has popular culture been quite so obsessed by death. Since Diana died and brought funerals back into fashion, we have all become death groupies. In this context, Matters of Life and Death, a season of theatre about death and dying at London's BAC, seems slightly less essential, particularly since so few of the shows get to grips with the subject matter. There has been some terrific theatre work on the theme of dying: it recently proved good West End box office in Margaret Edson's Wit, about an American professor who dies of ovarian cancer. Frantic Assembly's immensely touching Hymns, about the rising toll of young male suicides (which had two performances in the BAC season), and Improbable's Coma have taken death to the cutting edge of performance. But after a week at BAC I feel bombarded by statistics and jokes. Why do so many companies fail to take this subject seriously? Or simply treat it like an actuarial statement? Is it that many of the companies here are' made up of young people who have not yet confronted their own mortality.
Lyn Gardner, Guardian
part of BAC's Matters of Life And Death Festival A season of theatre About death And dying
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