Edinburgh Festival: Killing Roger (3 stars)

When technology can keep us alive longer than we perhaps should be, Sparkle and Dark’s touching new show – a mix of music, puppetry and performance – asks, what options do we really have if we decide our time has come.

Roger is an elderly man who, with nicotine-stained skin, gasps at his oxygen cylinder as if at any moment he is going to take his last breath. Only, since it’s the one thing keeping his body ticking over, he never quite does. When Billy, a young guy doing community work, turns up to help him, they gradually develop an unlikely friendship.

The main problem with the first part of the play is that little happens, except for the plink plonk of a guitar and the kind of everyday chitchat we might all have with an elderly relative. Roger isn’t an especially likable character – a cantankerous chap – while Billy is a mild-mannered everyman.

However, as Roger’s illness progresses and Billy agrees to help him die – by suffocation – it’s a simultaneously horrific and tragic scene, made all the more emotional because it makes us think what we would do for our own relatives, if necessary.

Written for The Scotsman

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