Brighton Fringe 2016
Outside the Box is a new ground-breaking one woman show about death and dying. The thought-provoking, funny and moving performance answers questions you never knew you had. It takes you closer to death through a handful of real life stories and some pithy commentary on the funeral industry. It’s performed by Liz Rothschild, performer, celebrant and manager of a green burial ground.
Outside the Box is a gently challenging investigation of the end of life, our societal reluctance to look it in the eye, the consequences of not doing so, and what’s possible if we do.
The piece was beautifully performed by Liz Rothschild and set in a simple and intimate space that could have been a living room or a workshop. The presence of a half made willow coffin provided a light, physical reminder that death was most definitely in the room.
The performance had a gentle cadence to it – vivid and engaging story telling, punctuated by music and willow weaving. It rose and fell in a natural, immensely reassuring way, very much like Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending, which was the first piece of music Rothschild played. In some ways, the venue was not ideal –we could hear all the noise from the pub through the curtain at the back of the room. But in many ways it was perfect – a reminder that life and death exist side by side.
Rothschild’s story telling was consummate. From the very first words: “I saw my first dead person…”, her stories were intriguing. She drew the audience in close, gently probing and questioning our society’s discomfort around death and reluctance to talk about it. The stories provided a real life backdrop for the key educational messages of her performance: you have a huge amount of choice at the end of life relating to your care, the treatment of your body after death, your funeral, and the disposal of your body – use it! Her narrative fluidly blended hard-hitting facts – 70% of us in the UK die without a will – with tender, heart-breaking experience and death bed humour.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show. It was both thought provoking and very funny, achieving the perfect balance between performance and education. I’d like to see it performed in every Fringe Festival and every village hall in the UK, followed by space for the audience to stay and reflect on what they’d heard and experienced. Although the performance was gently delivered, its impact was intense, and I would have welcomed an opportunity to process what I’d experienced before moving out into the world again.
When I interviewed Liz Rothschild after her performance, I heard more about the development of the show, and discussed the power of stories in the bereavement process: