Premiering this Friday, July 6th and playing through July 15th (full schedule below), Living Will is one of 159 plays taking part in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. A world premiere by Helen-Claire Tingling, the play is described as “a timely drama about end-of-life issues”. The production is directed by Jillian Rees-Brown and marks the return to the stage for film and TV actor Bill MacDonald (Traders, Rookie Blue, A History of Violence, Hush Little Baby).
As the cast prepares for their opening performance, we caught up with Helly Chester, who plays MacDonald’s eldest daughter Susanne, for the inside scoop on the rehearsal process and why she thinks Living Will is a must-see in 2018.
What is Living Will about and what attracted you to the script?
For me, Living Will has such urgency and is of critical importance in our current aging society. The elderly tend to get overlooked. Their opinions and desires are not always considered seriously. This is especially true when the elderly become ill and need to be in a hospital or other care setting. Living Will confronts the issues of illness, death, and the right to choose how one dies, head on. We see the conflict evolving through the eyes of a family who are all desperate to do the right thing for their father. They do not agree. Each of them wants to respect his wishes in a way that accords with their moral principles. I am sure that many people can identify with the various viewpoints in this play. Personally, I have lived through many of the struggles that this play presents. I have had to advocate, insist, intervene, plead, and demand when a member of my family was not treated with the respect she deserved.
Tell us about the cast and creative team involved.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the Living Will team. Everyone has taken their roles and the issues of the play to heart. I am moved by the passion and honesty that has been displayed at every rehearsal. Jillian [Rees-Brown], our director, is a joy to work with. I love how she asks probing questions that help me think about my character and how I might approach a particular moment. Helen-Claire [Tingling], our playwright, is so incredibly encouraging and always has an intelligent, thoughtful answer to my many queries. Malcolm Byrne, our stage manager, and Hailee Morrow, our assistant stage manager, keep us all in line with their calm, supportive demeanour. And, the original music by Greg Diakun will add strength to the story.
What are some of the rewards and challenges of making the show part of the Toronto Fringe?
Being a part of something like this huge event is always a challenge. I remember when the Fringe Festival was much smaller in scope. The early days seemed quieter and less hurried. Now the TO Fringe is a mammoth! On the other hand, I absolutely love that the festival offers so many wonderful performance opportunities to many various artists in Toronto. It’s fabulous!
Why is this a can’t-miss production?
Living Will is topical. It’s political. It’s personal. It’s a play that is not afraid to confront what is ugly about our medical system. It is not afraid to show how a family can be torn apart even though everyone is trying to do what they believe is right.
Where/When is the show happening and how can we get tickets?
Living Will shows are at the Factory Theatre at the times listed below.
Friday, July 6th – 1:00PM
Saturday, July 7th – 1:45PM
Monday, July 9th – 1:00PM
Wednesday, July 11th – 3:30PM
Thursday, July 12th – 8:45PM
Saturday, July 14th – 11:00PM
Sunday, July 15th – 7:00PM
Tickets available through the Toronto Fringe website or through livingwillplay.com