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A musical about malignancy

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 23 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6318
  1. Richard Hurley, features and debates editor
  1. The BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

This performance certainly got Richard Hurley talking about cancer and death

Mark Douet

What starts as a song and dance spectacular about receiving a cancer diagnosis takes an abrupt turn after the interval. Thoroughly demolishing the theatre’s “fourth wall,” the cast of A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer reassemble without their glittery outfits. One of many real patients who inspired the characters takes to the stage to describe her experience. Then the actors remember their relatives who had cancer. Then they invite the audience to share memories of loved ones who’ve died. We call out names in the dark. There are tears.

Another collaborator, Lara Veitch, has had cancer six times in her 27 years. “Being diagnosed with any serious illness is one of the most shocking things in the world.” she told The BMJ. “Your life spins out of control. That’s why it had to be a musical: it’s big and loud and colourful and mad. The aim is to demystify illness and death.”

She contributed to one of the show’s development workshops topless to show off her scars of double mastectomy. “Not having reconstruction at the age of 24 was difficult for …

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