An Instinct for Kindness, Pleasance Dome

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The Independent Culture

Last year Chris Larner helped his ex-wife, Allyson, to die. She had been living with multiple sclerosis for over 20 years and “needed help with everything, apart from thinking.” Having decided she could take it no more, she asked her ex-husband to help her one last time and accompany her to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where she ended her life on 4 November 2010.

Larner, a writer and actor who has appeared at the National Theatre and the RSC, tells Allyson’s story in an intensely moving, at times overwhelming, one-man show. Flitting between past and present, Larner builds up a vivid picture of the doughty, blackly comic Allyson, whom he met when they were both members of the same touring theatre company in the Eighties. It’s not so much a tribute to her, though, as a play about the messy business of dying, both the ethical and emotional ins-and-outs of assisted dying and the hair-wrenching bureaucracy and practicalities – what to wear? What about that book you’re halfway through? Larner relates it all with a clear-eyed, occasionally funny, occasionally horrifying lack of sentimentality, right up to the moment Allyson is given a Swiss chocolate to take away the bitter taste of her final drink.

To 29 August (0131 556 6550)