Getting inside the box with Outside the Box – A Live Show about Death

Liz writes- Back from the Edinburgh festival now and ready to really focus on the build up towards the festival.  We had amazing weather.  My experience of the festival in the past has been torrential rain which soaked me as soon as I left the safety of my venue. This time it was people barbecuing in The Meadows, playing games and lying around in the sun with an ice-cream and it made for a much more leisurely, relaxed atmosphere overall making people more willing to engage in conversation on the street when you were flyering. We had a wonderful time up at Summerhall in terms of audience response to the piece and the chance to see many other pieces of very impressive work.   It was a very inspiring venue to be part of with so much excellent groundbreaking work to enjoy and a really marvellous team of young staff on hand to help at all times.  Death at the Fringe held a very successful launch event with nearly 200 people there and several pieces were showcased there including us and the wonderful Dr. Phil Hammond. We have gathered a rich variety stories from our audiences and more are promised.  They can be seen on the website for the show listed under Stories.  They are creating a valuable resource of experience showing what is possible, what can go wrong and most importantly of all that we are not alone as we naviagate the territory of death, dying and funerals. Lots of people tried out our cardboard coffin including many children, adults and one brave policewoman in full uniform.  It generated lots of passing responses too such as “Oh that’s what a cardboard coffin looks like. I’ve always wondered” to “That’s what I want” one woman pointing firmly and making sure she had her partner’s attention to “I used to make those in Australia”.  And of course some people avoided us or shuddered as they passed as if our mere presence made death more imminent.  It felt as though just being there in that way was already bringing the whole subject into the light.  We invited people to leave advice about how to live a good life on the lid of our coffin and it is now full of gems of good sense and fun on the subject .  It was noticeable how the children took our questions very directly and offered very heartfelt advice about doing what you love doing, being yourself and telling the people you love that you love them and spending time with them.  Initially, the adults were more inclined to suggest alchohol as a way through. This gradually shifted as we began pointing out the kind of things the children had offered us and it became a much more honest conversation as time went on.  One of our favourites however was called out by a guy standing outside a pub having a beer when we processed past carrying the coffin.  “Hey pal, your taxi’s come!” he yelled over to his friend.  Interestingly, the kind of advice received mirrors very closely the points made so eloquently by Bronnie Ware in her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.  She says no-one every wishes they had worked harder.  It is all about relationships, being true to yourself, following your private dreams. The show does seem to work in terms of how it reaches audiences and  I believe people are willing to share their very personal stories with us because it starts the conversation and invites trust.  People received talk about the emotional impact in terms of both laughter and tears and the sense of being uplifted and informed. One young woman told me she spent the next few hours after seeing it really appreciating being alive.  That is really a dream bit of feedback from my point of view since the show is essentially about reconnecting death with life.  We are now working on the tour for next year and looking for venues to add to the list we already have.  We have had several suggestions to combine the performance with having some food together which I think is a wonderful approach and really enables audiences to talk to one another and share their responses afterwards.  And I know some people just want to go home and digest privately what they have experienced.  In Oxford, Stroud and Bellinger there will be the chance to stay for a postshow talk after a short break so those that wish to leave can do so. These are the next performances planned this year.  All the details are on the Full Circle website as well as Kicking the Bucket.   I hope to see you in the audience one day and do get in touch if you are interested in booking a performance.