Saturday, July 09, 2016


Watched edgy German theater collective Markus&Markus' experimental interpretation of Henrik Ibsen's 1881 commentary 'Ghosts' under the bill of the O.P.E.N, sifa. We know the story of syphillis-stricken Oswald Alvene asking his mother Helene to help him commit suicide. The idea of euthanasia was so shocking in the 19th century. It's equally controversial now. Assisted suicides, or usually associated with 'physician-assisted suicides' are still hotly debated, now legal in many European countries and accepted in USA states of Oregon and Washington, California, Vermont and Montana.

Markus&Markus (namely Markus Schäfer and Markus Wenzer) didn't stage a play with a lead actor in the conventional sense. They found the 81-year-old Margot living in Germany. They spent April 2014 with her, understanding her desire to end her life on her terms, filming her, her thoughts and her daily chores. On May 1, they accompanied her to an euthanasia clinic in Switzerland, and attended her funeral on May 22. Margot is the lead actor, and the recorded film is the stage. This mixed media show that draws on Ibsen's themes is pretty much a requiem to Margot.

It was kinda creepy watching deceased protagonist Margot animated through the play's videos, photos and letters. We see Margot going about her day-to-day errands, getting her affairs organized and bidding loved ones farewell. We heard her voice, laughter, and opinions; we got to know Margot intimately. And that's unsettling. What a stark reminder for the audiences. My goosebumps were sufficiently rattled. The play provides should I put idealistic viewpoint of one perception of assisted suicides. But that's just one viewpoint. There're other forms of euthanasia that it doesn't acknowledge and I assume it's a matter of artistic interpretation since it is also about Margot.

The play does raise questions as to how death will come to all of us. In good time, I know. In His time. But there's this debate of quality of life versus continuance of life. I can't shake off that internal debate. I'm the sort who already have my affairs in order and continuously updated; I'm very vocal about possible palliative care situations in the event of accidents or illnesses. I work with old folks and the terminally ill, and I've begun wishing for a firmer Do-Not-Resucitate policy and people being more forthcoming or at least engaging about (not yet legally-binding) advance care planning in Singapore. It's inevitable that I'm insistent on being neat about it when death comes, suddenly or otherwise. 

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