WIT – Manchester

In Manchester, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews by Kristy StottLeave a Comment

Royal Exchange, Manchester – until 13 February 2016

Wit is Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a humorous, emotional and ultimately devastating story set in the final few hours of Dr Vivian Bearing’s life.

Dr Vivian Bearing is an American Professor of 17th-century poetry, specialising in the metaphysical works of John Donne. A brilliant university lecturer and scholar, she now finds herself diagnosed with advanced metastatic ovarian cancer. While in university she was the tough teacher; now as an inpatient in a university teaching hospital she is the one being examined and studied.

Julie Hesmondhalgh is magnificent in the title role of Dr Vivien Bearing, playing out the final hours of Vivien’s life and also flashbacks to her past. Despite tackling the a subject as harrowing as cancer, Wit is delivered with a brittle humour resisting any kind of sentimentality – with Vivien realising, towards the end, that she prefers kindness to intellectualism.

Her slim frame is covered by 2 hospital gowns and she wears a pink baseball cap on her hairless head – she is articulate and chooses the words she uses with care. Brutally announcing ‘I will never forget the time that I found out I had cancer’ the stage turns and we are transported back to