Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Dr Phil considers the deaths of two dads and his mum still gate vaulting in her eighties. And considers his own death asking is it possible not to kill yourself before your time, yet die gently when your time comes? Laugh, think about sanity and plan your exit.
Phil Hammond was an NHS GP for twenty years, has worked in sexual health and now works in a specialist NHS team for young people with chronic fatigue. He first appeared at the Fringe in 1990 as half of the junior doctor double-act Struck Off and Die, has been a Private Eye journalist, is an outspoken supporter of the junior doctors in their current dispute, appeared on numerous radio programmes and written several books. So an hour in his company promises to be interesting.
He starts by cheerily announcing that people who come to see his show are more likely to die. But then again 99% of people involved in car accidents are wearing shoes which doesn’t prove that wearing shoes causes car accidents…
He wants us to think about what we want, to be talking about death – not only because it makes life easier for those you leave behind but because it brings people closer together. That in his experience as a doctor people reaching the end of their life don’t regret what they haven’t done but the time they haven’t spent with their family and friends.
He then goes on to do just that, to talk about his life and family; sharing highs and lows in a thoroughly disarming way. He may have spent much of his childhood in Australia but he has nailed our trademark self-deprecating British humour.
Experience of death came young for him with the death of his father when he was only seven. Amidst the humour he gives us an insight into grieving as a child; how children won’t always react in the way we think they should as though they are merely mini adults.
Back in England as a teenager he followed in his father’s footsteps in his interest in science and settled on a career in medicine – where he found discussing death and the sharing of difficult diagnoses and news with patients was all too often absent. He touches on the very serious as well, using the example of the Bristol paediatric cardiac survey scandal to highlight the importance of openness and honesty when things do go wrong.
This is a thoroughly life affirming show, mostly about death, and one everyone should see. You will leave smiling… and thoughtful. And if that hasn’t convinced you; as a child he asked his father about the meaning of life… go just to hear the answer.
Life and Death (But Mainly Death) is also part of the festival within the festival Death on the Fringe featuring drama, comedy, spoken word, music and other events. It is part of the ongoing charity-led campaign, Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, which works to promote more openness about death, dying and bereavement.