‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’

This week’s Womens’ Hour is named after a new ‘cancer musical’ by Judith Dimant and Bryony Kinnings.   The play centres around a writer who aims to write a ‘guide to cancer’, beginning without any personal experience in the so-called ‘Kingdom of the Unwell’.

“This narrator poses the question: why don’t we know about illness until we have it? But then, her kid gets sick, and everything changes: her pragmatism, her ability to be non-emotional about it.”

While telling this woman’s story, the musical attempts to make a statement about the way in which we talk about cancer:

“They both hate the language of cancer: the talk of courage, of battles won, or lost. “Our characters aren’t brave,” says Kimmings. “They don’t have that choice. Cancer is outside their control. That’s what’s so terrifying about it.”

Theatre can allow for a detailed view into real experiences (on this occasion, Judith Dimant’ s experience of breast cancer). With ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’, Dimant and Kinnings offer an alternative language to ‘war’ metaphors when speaking about cancer.

How do you feel about describing cancer as a ‘battle’? Do you feel a pressure to be ‘brave’?

Sources: The Guardian; Womens’ Hour; Art Quotes; Trailer & image from National Theatre website

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