The Messenger: more

Audience Feedback from our Comments Book

“Loved the show. Sad, uplifting, clever, tragic, funny – a bit of everything. Beautiful work, Limbik.”

“A fabulous and powerful show – excellent performances and great staging. Marvellous use of space. Fab music. Just perfect. Thank you.”

“Words cannot express how brilliant this work was. Just fabulous.”

“Imaginative, moving, hilarious- Loved it!”

“Beautiful, amazing. Thank you.”

“Such a strong piece of theatre. Made me laugh, made me cry, made me think! Loved it!”

Professor Penny Lewis – Medical-Legal Ethics Advisor

It has been a tremendous experience to support Limbik’s development of The Messenger. As an academic whose interests include law and ethics at the end of life, and organ donation in particular, my role has ranged from advising on the development of the story, commenting on drafts of the script, and providing feedback on rehearsals and early performances. The move from my usual role as an audience member to play a small role in the creative process has been a rare privilege, especially the opportunity to work on a piece of devised theatre, which was a new form for me. Now as an audience member, I am still thrilled each time I see the play, drawn into the web of relationships between the family members and the clinicians, and excited by the powerful use of music and movement.

In addition to this small role in the development of The Messenger, I have also shared in the frustrations and occasional joys of both the on-going search for funding to support the project, and the challenges of reaching a larger audience. Most recently we’ve added a research element to our work. One of the long-standing questions within the organ donation community is whether or not greater transparency around the donation process would have a positive or negative impact on the public’s willingness to donate a loved one’s organ. The study we are undertaking (supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London) investigates whether greater transparency about the donation process through the narrative of The Messenger has a positive impact on attitudes towards organ donation, particularly in regards to the audience members’ own loved ones.

Professor Penney Lewis

Member, UK Donation Ethics Committee

Co-Director, Centre of Medical Law & Ethics, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London

Ben Samuels – Director

A number of years ago, on my to a company meeting at the pub, reading The Orestia on a train, I was struck by the role of the messenger.  What is a messenger in greek tragedy? Someone who has borne witness to an event; someone who will re-tell, and re-imagine, that event so profoundly that the lives of everyone who hear it will be forever changed.  At the pub, I posed the question to the company: who are our modern day messengers? What have they seen and what message do they have for the rest of us?  We talked about soldiers and social workers and then it struck us:

Nurses. 

Sarah’s sister is a cardiac nurse. She works transplant cases.

Transplantation. 

A new heart, when yours is broken.

The medical miracle was its own metaphor.

Our research into organ transplantation led us to donation: the unseen and uncelebrated side of the process.  For someone’s life to be saved, another, somewhere else, must die.  In order to retrieve their organs for donation, they must die under a very specific set of circumstances.  And in a small corner of the NHS, we discovered a group of nurses who, day in and day out, work with grieving families to facilitate that process.  As one of them said to us:

“The moment I pose the question—your loved one could go on to save someone’s life through organ donation—is the moment that everything unsaid, simmering and unresolved in that family comes to the surface.”

As theatre makers, we were hooked.

Sarah Johnson – Performer and Creator

We met with many SN-ODs and they are all tremendous storytellers.  As we talked, they painted extraordinarily vivid pictures of their world.  They described long nights in stuffy rooms talking with families, trying to facilitate the best possible decision for them.  They described the whirlwind of calls to the recipient centres trying to place the organs, the co-ordination of motorbikes, helicopters and courrier drivers ready and waiting to transport this precious cargo.  They shared with us tales of moments of calm, when they perform “the last offices” for the donor.  When everything is over, they wash, clean and dress the  patient so that they are ready for their loved ones to meet to say goodbye.  It is a moment of peace, after all the activity is finished.  They take handprints and hairlocks for the family.  And they open the window for the soul to escape…