Review: Killing Roger – Greenwich Theatre, London

We sent Tom Hunt to check out Killing Roger, a play that brings the issue of assisted dying to life

The most extraordinary thing about this production is the way that the grizzled, rasping, inhuman puppet at the heart of it transforms before the audience into a living, touching and tender human being by its close.

The premise is simple: “Could you kill someone?” asks the withered Roger of his new carer, a young man, played by Graham Dron, before descending into an attack of violent, disturbing coughing, drawn out to great effect. Billy must decide how far his duties as a carer should go towards his suffering, terminally ill friend.

It is this conundrum that the audience is drawn into, as Roger’s craggy features and brash, uncaring facade soften into those of a suffering old man and Billy grapples with his initial distaste.

The convincing puppetry of Nicholas Halliwell and Louisa Ashton, along with the creative talent of prop-maker and director, Shelley Knowles-Dixon, are quite astonishing and you could be forgiven for thinking that there is someone hidden within a costume, acting independently in front of you. All the while, the live music supplied by Lawrence Illsley on the guitar, coupled with the low-level lighting, provides an edge to the atmosphere in the theatre as the performance reaches its chilling climax.

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By this time, we have come to know Roger, have taken a welcome glimpse into the happier days of his past and become used to his Scots drawl and uncompromising manner, but also vividly aware of his pain and frustration. He has become a living individual.

Sparkle and Dark productions should be proud of the compelling manner in which they have been able to portray the sombre issue of euthanasia by sparking life into a fundamentally lifeless puppet.

Killing Roger is no longer running, but Sparkle and Dark will be launching a new production in the coming months. Check their website for updates.

Read it and don’t weep.

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