Harriet discovers all The Colours
Young London actor-playwright Harriet Madeley has her finger on the pulse - of life, the end of life and life-limiting illness. At 30, she believes that as a nation we are less and less aware of our approaching end and that of our loved ones. We try to ignore the fact that we will all die one day.
She put off reading a friend's book written in the last months of his life. "I thought it would be awfully depressing and distressing but what I got from reading it was a new appreciation of life and how the writer was experiencing his shortened life in a more vivid way."
So she got on a train and went to Wales to learn the uplifting and inspiring stories of five people. In her play The Colours they lie on a Welsh beach, moving through fantasy, memory and reality, processing profound yet ordinary experiences as they near the end of their lives. They reflect on the present, on what the future has in store, on a rollercoaster ride of the human imagination all the way to the brink; as far as the eye can see.
The play has had great reviews and after the run at London's Soho Theatre will go on tour, starting in Wales which inspired the humour, the language, the stories.
Says Harriet: "I'm always interested in subjects we try to avoid, the taboos, the things that will inevitably affect us all. I want to lift the stigma, to get us closer to a reality which includes longer lifespans, more long-term illness and all the inspirational stories. This makes the subject less frightening, not more frightening.
"People used to stay at home, in the family, but now illness and death is hospitalised so that we are less close to it, less accustomed. It frightens us more because of the distance - the closer you get, the less frightening it becomes. And you discover a lot of hope, a lot of courage, humour and inspiration.
"It also puts things in your own life into perspective, gives you a different understanding so that when you encounter death and illness hopefully you will take courage and inspiration from what you've discovered."
Harriet's last play, which toured the country and featured on BBC Radio 4, was The Listening Room which focused on restorative justice and what victims and perpetrators experience after a serious crime. It was a revelation. It told how people take strength in the worst kind of adversity and can even help each other.
There's no doubt that The Colours will also give another layer of understanding to anyone who watches it unfold. A must-see if you're in London. A young writer, actor and young theatre group grasping life - and death - and all the true colours.
Discounted £12 tickets are available for the rest of the run with the code 'COLOUR', and £10 tickets are available until Saturday 10th August with the code 'BEACH'.
On 10th August, there's also a post-show Q+A with palliative care doctor Mark Taubert, who features in the play and recently made a big splash with a letter he wrote to David Bowie - here's Benedict Cumberbatch reading it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvRtTAzx4gc