Living Will (The Living Will Company) 2018 Fringe Review

Living Well, playing at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.

As the Canadian population ages, the question of the sort of end we each might local becomes more pressing. Modern medical care may be able to ensure an extended lifespan, while not being able to guarantee a high quality of life in this extra time so given. Living Will, a show put on by The Living Will Company at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a sensitive and always watchable dramatization of an issue relevant to us all.

Living Will begins at the home of Wilfrid King (Bill MacDonald), a strong and proud man in his late 70s ready to discuss with his children provisions for the end of his life. Divides among his children, already strained, become chasms when Wilfrid begins to encounter serious health issues.

One thing I quite liked about Living Will was this play’s fundamental humanity. The script by Toronto theatre veteran Helen-Claire Tingley makes clear that, while different people have different opinions about what is to be done, the script does not demonize any one character or set of perspectives. Everyone is trying to do the best they can in a very difficult situation. This even-handedness makes Living Will a strong play.

This performance makes good use of the Factory Theatre Mainspace stage, action smoothly transitioning from living room to waiting room to hospital bedside.

With a uniformly strong cast, everyone shone. Bill MacDonald did a wonderful job portraying paterfamilias Wilfrid, compellingly portraying a man as he struggled through his decline.

Peter Nelson, playing Wilfrid’s elder son Jake, was quite good depicting a man doing his best to abide by his father’s wishes. This performance paired well with that of Abraham Asto, playing Wilfrid’s youngest child Galen. Galen’s desperate wish to keep his father alive against even his father’s wishes was made worthy of sympathy by Asto’s performance.

In many ways, the central character in Living Will was Wilfrid’s daughter Annie, a woman whose desire to do the best for her father was guided by her unconditional love for him; Andrea Davis was superb here. I could hear, sitting in the theatre, other audience members being audibly moved by the conclusion as delivered by Davis.

Living Will is seventy compelling minutes of drama, examining an issue relevant to all Canadians and doing so in an even-handed and dramatically satisfying way. Expect to leave the theatre perhaps saddened but enlightened.

Details

  • Living Will is playing until July 15 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst Street)
  • Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.

Performances

  • July 6th at 1:00 pm
  • July 7th at 1:45 pm
  • July 9th at 1:00 pm
  • July 11th at 3:30 pm
  • July 12th at 8:45 pm
  • July 14th at 11:00 pm
  • July 15th at 7:00 pm

Image of Andrea Davis and Bill MacDonald by Matthew Sarookanian.

9 thoughts on “Living Will (The Living Will Company) 2018 Fringe Review”

  1. An insightful look at a topical issue: how do we negotiate our final days? Who gets to decide when we die? Family? The medical establishment? Ourselves? The play examines the control we lose as we age, the power struggle of everyone trying to “do the right thing.” It’s a situation familiar to so many families. Or will be all too soon.

    A moving and thought-provoking experience.

  2. A brilliant examination of the tough choices we make when caring for a dying loved one. There are no easy decisions and playwright Helen-Claire Tingling has captured this struggle through expert dialogue and a sensitivity that reflects the deep humanity of this topic. With a superb, cast, expert direction and a musical score that adds to the poignancy of this drama this play is a must see!

  3. This is an outstanding play about a grown family negotiating the challenges and decisions relating to their ailing Father as his health deteriorates. Helen-Claire Tinging has written a play that captures the emotions involved as family dynamics change when decisions are made. The acting is superb. A must see!

  4. An excellent play that deals with issues that we all face as aging adults and as children of aging parents. Solid acting and well paced with time to grapple with the emerging drama. It is both moving and thought-provoking. Go see this play and then take action in your own life.

  5. I don’t understand this review at all, or the comments. This play was atrocious. Only MacDonald shines, and a few small roles are performed simply and therefore ably. Beyond that, the direction, score, acting and script are reminiscent of a bad high school production. I’ll stop there, out of respect for a group of artists who can be commended for committing to doing their art for the public, but unfortunately very few of them were ready for this Fringe run.

  6. This play captured the very essence of the issues that many families face – or will face – when a loved one is nearing end of life. It also demonstrates that despite having a POA in place, this document proves futile. If nothing else, I hope it provokes a discussion between families and their designated caregivers.

  7. This is theatre that doesn’t just make you feel, but also makes you think; consider; re-evaluate; walk away with gears turning. “Living Will” is incredibly emotionally powerful, but it also provides helpful awareness to difficult situations that all of us must face at one time or another. A truly excellent play.

  8. The Living Will was an extremely moving, poignant, and thought-provoking production! All of the characters fully embodied the complexity of what it means to be human, and cast an important light on a challenging situation. 10/10 would recommend.

  9. The social workers and doctors are portrayed as monsters. It would be illegal for anyone to override the son’s power of attorney.

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