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An Instinct for Kindness
Published on Sunday, 21 August 2011

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
3-9, 11-16, 18-29 Aug, 4:10pm-5:20pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Last year Chris Larner accompanied his ex-wife and lifelong friend, Allyson, to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland, where she ended her decades-long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. In An Instinct For Kindness he tells the story of her life and death.

Taking no overt political stance on the issue of assisted suicide that surrounds Allyson’s decision to end her life, the play is fundamentally a human story. With a respectful lack of sentimentality, Larner’s script does not shy away from any of the clinical and possibly discomforting details, remaining unwaveringly honest throughout.

With a cleverly snaking structure, the play is compelling to the end. Using nothing but a chair for a prop, Larner portrays all the characters of the story – including the inimitable Allyson – with the simple precision of a consummate storyteller. Larner’s performance betrays a remarkable warmth and vitality, and is an absorbing insight into the daily bureaucratic frustrations of the process, as well as a testament to the strength and good humour people can show in the face of extraordinary situations.

Hannah Eidinow’s excellent direction has created a crisp and affecting story that had moved much of the audience to tears by the end. Powerful because of its unflinching commitment to an authentic rendering of Allyson’s life and death, it is the show’s integrity that makes it so touching.

An Instinct For Kindness is a story of intense emotions, but Larner’s frankness and warmth never lets it stray from the truth of the matter, thoroughly engaging the audience and engendering a personal understanding of this very important story. 

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