Actor, comedian and disability rights activist, Liz Carr talks about her Unlimited-commissioned theatre production, Assisted Suicide the Musical. This ‘TED Talk with show tunes’ explores the serious issue of assisted suicide but through the glitz and mischief of a modern musical. Carr uses that musical form as a metaphor for the ‘clap-along’ nature of the assisted suicide debate.
Artists in Conversation: Liz Carr Full Audio Description Text
This is a short film, lasting just over three and a half minutes, which presents a conversation with the actor, comedian and disability rights activist Liz Carr about her work and in particular her theatrical piece Assisted Suicide The Musical.
The conversation with Liz takes place backstage at the Shaw Theatre, London, as Liz and her company rehearse Assisted Suicide The Musical ahead of a performance at the Southbank Centre. This audio description of the film includes Liz’s spoken words and descriptions of the performance clips shown. It will take about 5 minutes to listen to if read aloud.
The film begins with a black screen and the title in white lettering: Artists in Conversation: Liz Carr.
Next, the film presents a montage of interior shots from the Shaw Theatre. We see an audio-visual technician programming the technical aspects of Assisted Suicide The Musical followed by a wider shot of the empty theatre. We then see the door to backstage, with a printed sign noting the entry to Liz Carr’s dressing room.
The film then cuts to Liz Carr seated for interview in the dressing room. Liz says “I’m Liz Carr, I’m an actor, comedian, disability rights activist and quite relevant here I’m an assisted suicide naysayer, i.e. I oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide”. The film next cuts to a closer shot of Liz talking as she continues, saying “so I have written and performed in a show called Assisted Suicide The Musical”.
Next we see Liz in a clip from the dress rehearsal performance of Assisted Suicide The Musical. She is on stage delivering a monologue from her wheelchair, a bright illuminated “Assisted Suicide” sign above her. The conversation with Liz plays out above these images, as she talks about her early life, saying “Born in the Wirral on Merseyside, never did any drama there because they were really unimaginative about how a wheelchair user could do drama”.
The film cuts back to Liz in the dressing room as she continues, saying “So I was in my early 30’s when I started to get involved in Disability Theatre”. As Liz speaks the film cuts to more clips of the show. We see Liz performing on stage, addressing the audience. Next we return to Liz seated for interview in the dressing room. Liz says “I perform also in a BBC TV drama, have been for five years, so yeah I do all sorts of things and I kind of love all the different things that I’ve been allowed to do”.
The film then cuts to a clip of Liz and the ensemble cast performing one of the opening numbers from Assisted Suicide The Musical. The cast sing and wave flags representing the different countries that have legalised assisted suicide, circling Liz as they perform. Liz’s voice cuts back in as she continues “I loved musical theatre, I love the genre and I just thought there were a lot of reasons why I wanted to make a piece of musical theatre, not just my love of it”.
We are now back with Liz in the dressing room, where she continues saying “but it felt that when we talk about assisted suicide people are kind of clapping along going “yes it’s a great thing” and so we’re always singing along and singing along and it’s like hold on what are we saying, what are the words, so it felt like quite a good metaphor for talking about such a serious subject.”
In vision the film cuts to the dress rehearsal performance of Assisted Suicide The Musical and we see a cast member performing with a wooden cane. He is dressed in an outfit reminiscent of British holiday camps, with clean white trousers and a red blazer. On the audio track Liz’s interview continues, as she says “the challenge though was to get the tone right and it has taken me six years and three different attempts at this show”.
As Liz talks we see the ensemble cast on stage, all dressed in matching holiday camp uniforms. Liz continues, now in-vision in the dressing room, saying “So what we’ve ended up with is maybe not a traditional musical but we’re defining it as like a TED talk with show tunes. So it is entertaining, in fact I think the most controversial element of the show is the title. I think once you get to the show, it’s the tone and I think the comedy are thoughtful actually. It’s not about being offensive it’s not about being over the top it doesn’t have a go at anyone it doesn’t have a go at individual’s choices it just puts across my world view that’s it”.
The film next cuts to a later part of the dress rehearsal performance of Assisted Suicide The Musical. We see the ensemble cast now in more modern attire of matching shades of blue, black and white, performing around a white board. Next the film cuts to a clip from the finale song from Assisted Suicide The Musical. The entire ensemble is on stage, dancing with Liz and in different costume elements, including a nurses outfit and a Pope costume.
Over the soundtrack we hear Liz speak, saying “It’s not just me on stage I have a cast of another six people who are on stage with me”. We cut back to Liz in the dressing room as she continues, saying “What I’ve experienced is that most people leave and have views on it and want to talk about it in the bar and that’s really important to us that it’s not just the show it’s that this conversation continues afterwards”.
The film cuts in closer on Liz as she follows up, saying “Some people have changed their views they’ve gone “you know what you won me over I’d never thought about that” So it’s transformative of some people and that’s the beauty of music it opens us up emotionally and it opens us up I think mentally”.
As Liz makes this point the film cuts to a tense confrontation between the character Liz from Assisted Suicide The Musical and another character who is pro-assisted suicide. Next we see Liz and a character in costume as the Pope performing a choreographed mime to a piano tune. Liz’s voice continues above the soundtrack as she says “My aim in making the piece was not just to make a piece of entertainment but almost a piece that we could take to open those conversations as I’ve said around the world to countries who are debating this or are facing challenges – even those where it’s legal”.
The film cuts to the performers on stage, again holding flags representing nations who have legalised assisted suicide. We see a close up of the Canadian flag as Liz continues speaking, saying “actually there’s only six countries out of a hundred and ninety six anyway where it’s legal there’s not many but there are a number who are talking about it, like Australia and so really quickly and this is very challenging for us and our producers is to try and get the show to where it can be really impactful and relevant in hosting debates. The nature of campaigning and the nature of putting on a show are almost at odds with each other so this is like a campaign but it’s also a piece of theatre”.
In the final moments of the film we see a montage of clips from the dress rehearsal performance as we cut between Liz in-vision and the show itself. Liz sums up her final thoughts, saying “This is not a disability specific piece although of course I’m a disabled woman and it informs my views on this this is a piece about anyone who is a human being this is about humanity. It’s limitless and it’s really important to me” The film finally cuts to the dress rehearsal performance of Assisted Suicide The Musical and we see an ensemble cast performing one of the opening numbers, “Suicide Tourist”.
The film fades into a credits board of white text on black background. The final credits board shows a link towww.disabilityartsinternational.org.uk.