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Cancer war cliches treated by a reality check

A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer, Belgrade B2, February 14-17.

Award-winning director Kirsty Housley is being sent back to Coventry with the new UK tour of A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer, which comes to the Belgrade later this month.

Housley spent her student days in the city, studying theatre and performance at the University of Warwick in the late 1990s, and began her career with Camden's Etcetera Theatre, winning the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award in 2003. In 2011, for The Paper Birds touring company, she directed Thirsty, an alcohol-inspired, devised piece, weaving together real booze-based confessions from responses to questionnaires and a drunken hotline.

It turns out that Thirsty would stand her in good stead for her work as director on A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer. Bryony Kimmings' searing piece similarly shines a light on real-life experiences, ranging from the comic to the brutal, while revealing difficult truths in the process.

Created by Kimmings for Complicite Associates and the National Theatre, A Pacifist's Guide sets out to dismantle some of the conventional narratives around illness, often sanitised and appropriated by healthy people as 'inspirational' stories. Candid conversations about cancer remain few and far between, she says.

"I think the main problem for me is that often, cancer is portrayed as someone's life starting when they get a diagnosis, and the story ending when they either survive or die. Illness is a much more transient thing than that - you go in and out of the worlds of ill and well all the time. The reality is that cancer is really long and slow and boring, dirty and messed up."

Tickets are available online at or from the Box Office on 024 7655 3055.

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