Assisted suicide is a perennially sensitive and controversial topic, making Double-spaced Theatre’s exploration of the subject, Bea, all the more bold. Looking at the effect of terminal illness on relationships, Mick Gordon’s play makes a delicate foray into thorny moral ground. The opening scene begins with an interview between Bea, played by Mara Lazari, and Ray, played by Adam Capriolo, Bea’s soon-to-be care assistant. It is here that the story of Bea’s fight to die begins. As Bea’s mother, Mrs. James, played by Kayleigh Choinière, struggles to come to terms with her daughter’s wishes, Ray explores his sexuality, insecurities, and troubled past. In turns tragic and uplifting, the story is a rewarding one, despite the finality of Bea’s untimely death near the end of the play.
Gordon’s nimbly written script allows the topic to be approached with a healthy sense of humour – so much so, you almost feel guilty for laughing so often. Bea’s character, enhanced with costumes and musical cues, is a ray of sunshine throughout the play. The bright, vividly coloured set gives off an air of innocence and joy, while the upbeat, feel good music radiates youth. All of this juxtaposes nicely with Bea’s relentless determination to see her wish to die realized, bringing humour and life to her otherwise bleak reality.
Caught between their desire to help Bea and their own moral compasses are Mrs. James and Ray. Moments of humour ensue when Bea’s directness clashes with the well-mannered discomfort of her mother and caregiver. In one of the most memorable scenes of the play, Bea and Ray get to chatting about sexual experiences when Bea, after expressing her despair that she will never again have sex, asks Ray to touch her. Ray, not being terribly thrilled or aroused by the prospect of providing this variety of ‘care giving’, finds himself positioned between empathy for Bea’s stolen youth and his unwillingness to fulfill her request. Caught between Ray’s humiliation and Bea’s devastation, the audience can only laugh at the awkward misunderstanding. It is this extreme difference in emotional response that, in a way, is the essence of the play.
Bea has made a rare achievement in theatre, commenting on human will and on the effect terminal illness has on relationships and loved ones with a welcome dose of humour. Most importantly, Bea is a statement on the fight for freedom going hand in hand with the fight for the right to die.