This event was part of a festival in Todmorden to inspire conversations around death and dying. And I was intrigued and excited straight away – just by the whole concept. Hasn’t every addict contemplated their own death at some point, either as a result of their using or as solution to the pain they are in? We’ve either coveted it or been driven insane by the fear of it, witnessed friends die in front of us or sadly missed the ability to say goodbye to those we loved. So who better to talk about this fascinating and highly emotive subject?
I went along purely as an observer without any preconceptions or expectations. The venue was a cosy room upstairs in the Golden Lion pub. It was filled to bursting which was lovely to see. People had to sit on the floor or the window sills. And, like me, the majority of people there were simply intrigued, some of them affected by addiction in some way but all of us needing to make sense of this inevitable experience – death.
The event used all medium of expression – storytelling, drama, improvisation, a musical thread. It was highly personal, at times painful, cathartic and extremely therapeutic. It exposed our fears, our weaknesses but, most of all, our courage and strengths.
Three of my friends in recovery were invited to stand and tell their story, one at a time. And then the lovely people from the Threadbear Theatre Company asked each participant to pull from their story one particular aspect that stood out for them, for whatever reason, and then they miraculously created, from a word used or an emotion felt, a small, poignant retelling with little more than their expressions and a few coloured scarves. The effect from the four people on the stage was amazing – funny, sad, despairing, baffling, miniscule but overwhelming. The way these actors re-enacted the emotions and the essence of the story in just a few minutes was uncanny in its clarity and brought huge applause.
The audience clung to every word and it was a joy to be there. Identification was rife throughout the room which prompted more people to add their own words and emotions, amplifying and energising the mood and the atmosphere around us. And the mood was far from sombre and morose. It provided a release from those feelings we have around death – guilt, shame, confusion, anger and, instead, added compassion, respect, elegance and plenty of humour.
Stories became intertwined and shared, some very personal and tragic and some of how death can bring families together, can prove positive and empowering. By sharing secrets and unspoken memories the people there – ranging in ages from young adults through to people of retirement age – were united in a common thread of experience.
It was a really moving and humbling experience. One I felt privileged to have attended. Thought provoking, emotive and very carefully and respectfully thought out and put together. It has left me feeling more comfortable with my own feelings around death and dying, more confident about expressing them and more determined to live my life to the full for as long as I am able.