Killing babies makes for Unspeakable Conversations at arts festival

Actors Mat Fraser and Liz Carr who play philosopher Pete Singer and activist Harriet McBride in Unspeakable Conversations by Christian O’Reilly. The play was commissioned by Maura O'Keefe (Once Off Productions) and Paul Fahy, Creative Director of the GIAF.

Actors Mat Fraser and Liz Carr who play philosopher Pete Singer and activist Harriet McBride in Unspeakable Conversations by Christian O’Reilly. The play was commissioned by Maura O'Keefe (Once Off Productions) and Paul Fahy, Creative Director of the GIAF.

The controversial US film maker Michael Moore once said the purpose of art is to make you feel uncomfortable, “or at least to go to that place that's already of discomfort inside you, and tap into that.”

By all accounts the world premier of Unspeakable Conversations at this summer’s Galway International Arts Festival fits this category. The theatrical performance, produced by Once Off Productions and GIAF, is based on a debate in 2002 between philosopher Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, and Harriet McBryde Johnson, a lawyer and disability rights activist.

Johnson wrote an 8,000 word article in the New York Times the year after the public debate, and it makes uncomfortable reading about how “easy” it is to courteously discuss with an animal rights advocate how your parents should have had the chance to kill you after birth.

Internationally acclaimed disabled actors Liz Carr (Silent Witness; Loki; Olivier Award winner for The Normal Heart ) and Mat Fraser (American Horror Story, Loudermilk, Richard III, Netflix series KAOS ) star in the stage adaptation of this Princeton University debate.

Can an argument be made for killing disabled babies within the first months of their lives? Singer said yes. Johnson disagreed. Their conversation started as an email exchange and ended up being a live event at one of the America’s most prestigious universities where Singer worked.

Unspeakable Conversations?thrusts us into the heart of this life and death debate, asking us all to consider this question.

Liz Carr and Mat Fraser portray Harriet and Peter but also take to the stage as themselves, as friends, actors and activists, to interrogate this unspeakable conversation through humour and personal insight, mixing verbatim text with their own words.

"Twenty years on since Harriet's Unspeakable Conversation with Peter Singer, every word of hers feels as pertinent and as fresh today. Disabled people are still having to prove our right to exist. As actors and disabled activists, it feels like myself and Mat are taking the baton to make sure that her voice - and ours - are heard. Loudly. Amusingly. Shockingly. Unforgettably,” says Carr.

“It's wonderful to be working with Liz again, in a play about disability and humanity, on a main stage."

Fraser says it is important to put these issues on stage: “Putting this chilling debate into a theatrical setting to pick it apart, and find our collective souls, have a little fun along the way, and expose the hypocrisy of animal rights for disabled deaths, is something you don’t want to miss!”

Unspeakable Conversations by Christian O’Reilly is presented by GIAF and Once Off Productions, an independent producing platform established in 2006 by Maura O’Keeffe to provide creative and flexible production supports for independent performing artists. It is directed by Olwen Foue?re??and?Kellie Hughes.

Tickets €25/30 for shows at The Mick Lally Theatre, Druid lane, between July 14 to July 27.

 

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