Veteran broadcaster Keith Hindell’s new play Dead or Alive? examines abortion at a time when a woman’s right to choose is still limited by law, although medical advances have made the procedure safer and easier than ever before.
A pregnant woman ponders whether to abort the twin embryos she is carrying and discusses it directly with them. One of them wants the right to live, while the other respects her mother’s decision. Her tentative intention to abort is forcefully challenged by a modern prince charming, the putative father. The situation is further complicated when two strange creatures emerge from “inner space”. Ultimately, the woman must choose the fate of her unborn children.
The Abortion Act of 1967 enables a pregnant woman to qualify for an abortion if two doctors certify that her symptoms meet certain criteria. Abortions in Britain which do not meet these minimum tests are still illegal subject to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
Over the 50 years since the 1967 Act, those who favoured abortion inside and outside of the medical profession have built a system which interprets the Act liberally. Currently, much of the medical establishment has declared itself in favour of repealing the 1967 Act. With new, medically safe pills in her hand, a pregnant woman can use them as she pleases without having to meet any medical or moral criteria. Such use has been declared illegal in Northern Ireland, where the 1861 Act makes virtually all abortion a criminal act, but has not yet been determined by the British Courts.
Keith Hindell was a broadcaster for the BBC, working as their United Nations Correspondent from 1980-84 and as a presenter of Peaceful Solutions and Media Watch in the BBC World Service in the late 1980s and 90s. He has also served as the UN Information Officer in London, and the Chairman of London and the South East Region for the UN Association. In the 1970s he was on the board of Pregnancy Advisory Service, a non-profit organisation providing abortion and contraception services in London. He was also the co-author with Madeleine Simms of Abortion Law Reformed (Peter Owen 1971, reissued as a paperback 2012.)
Dead or Alive? stars Joanna Cordle (Theatre Sangallo , Venice) as the woman, with Natasha Jacobs (Hello, Hello, Arcola Theatre) and James Glyn (National Youth Theatre, professional debut) as the unborn male and female embryos. Nik Salmon (In Soft Wings, Tristan Bates Theatre) plays the man, with Lucy Hilton-Jones (I’m Standing Next to You, Home Manchester) and Aaron Kehoe (Young Everyman Playhouse) playing two excitable sperm cells.
May 15th – 26th, Pleasance Theatre.