A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer

Published October 20, 2016

What’s it all about?

An experimental musical about the scariest word we know: cancer.

Why? As Director Bryony Kimmings explains in a voiceover prologue, she wants to challenge us to talk about illness and death, to openly and honestly confront the darkest taboo we can. But nobody goes to the theatre to get depressed, so why not channel it through jazzhands, a five-piece band, and a myriad of musical styles?

So begins the story of Emma, a young, single mother whose baby son develops suspected bone cancer. As she descends into the nightmarish ‘kingdom of the sick’ and a harrowing cycle of diagnosis, waiting, testing, and treatment, her time in the hospital offers us a rare, unwavering glimpse into the stories of fellow patients.

Through tales and anecdotes borne from tragic real life events, but told with a subverting song, a dance and a smile, you’ll have plenty to discuss on the way home.

Who’s in it?

Amanda Hadingue is outstanding in exploring the sheer pain and horror of Emma’s experience, but the entire twelve-strong cast, through portrayals of great truthfulness, force you to laugh, engage and reflect throughout.

What will I be humming tomorrow?

Tom Parkinson’s music and Brian Lobel and Bryony’s lyrics vary between poignant ballads and surprisingly upbeat tunes, with the pre-interval dance number Vulnerability Club lyrically provocative and melodically catchy.

What should I look out for?

Lucy Osborne’s slowly mutating set, replete with blow-up cancerous cells and Christina Cunningham’s glittering, quirky ‘cancer cell’ costumes, both slowly centring on Emma in cartoon-like fashion.

A curious juxtaposition of music and harrowing subject matter best demonstrated in sequin-clad, disco ball-infused number Miracle.

The moment that A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer transcends from caricatured musical to empowering, devastating mutual experience. True to the piece’s experimental form, the result is one of the most reflective – needless to say important – finales in London theatre.

What’s being said on Twitter?

In a nutshell?

The utterly unique A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer is an important piece of unflinching, tender and confounding experimental theatre.

A Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer plays at the National Theatre until 29 November. You can book your tickets through us here.