Genevieve Vieira
2 minute read
13 Feb 2014
1:30 pm

Bedside matter

Genevieve Vieira

Art can spark debate.

LESSON ONE. Roy Horovitz as Adam, teaching a patient how to read. Picture: Supplied.

Often used as a vehicle for expression or communication or to convey the emotions and ideologies of its creator, its true essence often lies in the way a work is interpreted. Different environmental, religious, social and economic factors play a huge role in people’s perceptions of a situation, resulting in fresh perspectives on the same experience.

The controversial Volunteer Man, currently on at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square, promises to stimulate and provoke.

Written by Dan Clancy from the MARA theatre in Israel, there’s no treading safe ground here. Like his former plays, The Timekeepers and Two Sisters, this production is straightforward and to the point.

Exploring the rights of a patient with an incurable disease to choose to end his life, Clancy confronts his audience with challenging questions, including the decision another person makes to help someone commit suicide.

Telling the story of two men, unalike in every way – one (Gamliel) is smug and dying of Aids in a New York Catholic Hospital, while the other is an introverted homosexual volunteer (Horovitz) – the story explores coming together under extreme circumstances and finding shared ground in their distress.

Carol Brown plays the role of an unsympathetic nun who does the barest minimum to get by, ensuring the patient’s bed is clean and that he receives his food and medication, but nothing more.

Volunteer Man manages to combine humour and serious dilemmas into a thought-provoking experience, sending its audience home with heavy hearts and

busy minds. Its poignant message is put across in a very real way. The actors have heavy accents, which means some of their words are sometimes difficult to make out, but this production is worth seeing.

A post-show question-and-answer opportunity with the actors in an intimate setting helps to highlight people’s opposing views on the matter and create further food for thought.

This production is an Obie Award-winning play and garnered a GLAAD Nomination (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Award Against Defamation) for Best Play of the Year in the United States.