Kill Me Now at the Park Theatre, London, is a play about Jake who has sacrificed his career as a writer to care for his disabled teenage son Joey. It deals with a range of themes, including assisted suicide.
Here, Naomi Collett, who has a disabled teenage son herself, gives us her thoughts on the play.
As the mother of a seventeen year old severely disabled young man, I was very interested to see the play Kill Me Now, but ten seconds in and my heart was rapidly sinking. The son, a pubescent youth, was writhing naked in the bath and shouting that one of his classmates was a whore. Yes, apparently where there is a disabled child, there will also be behavioural problems.
A few minutes later the primary carer, his father, played by Greg Wise, lugs his son from the bath to the bare floor to change his nappy. Hello? Hoists anyone? Hygiene?! The actors were barely warming up and I was already worried I was going to be stuck watching a series of cliches for the next two hours, starting with the biggest bogeymen for the non disabled world: bad behaviour and double incontinence. I started to wonder also what the response would be of those in the audience who were not carers.
But then the play moves on to perfectly depict the mad fish bowl world of carers in crisis as the father and his sister struggle to cope with a second terrible diagnosis against a mundane backdrop of managing jobs and household tasks. The play shows the gallows humour, the kindnesses alternating with flashes of anger as the pressures on the father and sister pile up.
It also deals with issues that I’m sure every carer for a child on the severe end of the spectrum is far too aware of: the social isolation, the lack of services, and the ever present fear of ill health and death of the carer and the future. These questions are handled beautifully, although painfully. The father begs his ex lover to visit his son, the ex lover winces and makes excuses. When the father is given his own diagnosis, his first thought is of his son. And the scene where the father and sister, overwhelmed and exhausted tell each other: “I love you,” was so poignant it brought tears to my eyes.
Towards the end I was wondering again about the response of non carers in the audience. The subject of voluntary euthanasia had been discussed; did they see the protagonists’ dilemma as being a result of a problem which only happens to other people and which ultimately could be resolved by euthanasia? Or were they aware that their lives were so difficult, less because of the nature of their conditions and more because of the lack of support from friends, their community, and society?
Maybe the play could be considered a call to arms or at least a thought-provoking glimpse into the world of disability and caring. As the play finished to an (almost) standing ovation, the two women to my left picked up their coats and got ready to leave. “That Greg Wise is looking gorgeous” said one. Sadly, the signs are not promising….
If you would like to chat to other parents and carers about any of the issues raised in the play, visit Scope’s online community.