Whose Life Is It Anyway? – Audition

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

By Brian Clark

Date & Time: 23-28 October 3017

7:30pm (2:30pm matinee, Saturday 28 October; no performance Tuesday)

Venue: Mathematical Institute, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG

Director: Tim Eyres

Oxford Theatre Guild returns again to the immersive setting of the Mathematical Institute for a modern re-imagining of this award-winning play.

From the director

The play is set mostly in a hospital room and the action revolves around Ken Harrison, a sculptor by profession, who has been paralysed from the neck down in a car accident and is determined to be allowed to die. Clark presents arguments both in favour of, and opposing, the right to die and examining to what extent the government should be allowed to interfere in the life of a private citizen. In portraying Ken as an intelligent man with a useless body, he leaves the audience with conflicting feelings about the patient’s desire to end his life. The various characters present different aspects of the argument (see synopsis); that does not mean they are ciphers but in fact are rounded, sympathetic personalities in their own right.

The hospital bed is the centre of the action, which means that Ken is necessarily onstage throughout the play. However, some scenes are set in other parts of the hospital, such as the corridor or the doctor’s office, and the position of these will be indicated minimally at other points of the traverse stage. The audience will be seated on both sides of the acting area.

I first became interested in the themes of this play when I took the part of the solicitor over 35 years ago. It has struck me since that, although public opinion has moved on considerably, politically and legally the situation has hardly changed at all. To emphasise the fact that this is still a live issue we shall be using an updated version, in which are mentioned such current issues as the use of stem cells and such public characters as Stephen Hawking. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, it is an entertaining play to watch, full as it is of lively conversations and a surprising amount of humour.

Important Dates

First round auditions:

Wednesday 31 May 8pm – 9.30pm

Sunday 4 June 6pm – 8pm

Monday 5  June 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Auditions take place at the URC in Summertown

Recalls (by invitation only):

Wednesday 14 June 8pm - 9.30pm

Map to the URC


Rehearsals will start on 13 August, giving us a full 10 weeks before the first night. They will take place on Sunday afternoons and on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  Of course, not everyone will be called to every rehearsal and the schedule will be built to accommodate existing commitments from the cast.  Even the actor playing Ken will not be called to every rehearsal because, although he is onstage throughout the show, several scenes take place away from his room. An important technical aspect of rehearsals will be training those playing hospital staff how to deal convincingly with a completely paralysed patient, and we shall have the help of a medical professional in doing this.

Cast will also be expected to be involved in publicising the show as well as in the setting-up and taking-down of the playing area.

Production weeks

Cast will be required for the get-in on Sunday, 22 October. Because the space is used for other activities and our use of it is therefore limited, both the tech and dress rehearsals will be held on that day. For similar reasons, we cannot use it on Tuesday 24 so there will be a Preview show on Monday 23, followed by 4 evening shows at 7.30 Wednesday 25 – Saturday 28, with a matinée at 2.30 on the Saturday. As the space is used for the Institute’s activities during the day, we have to set up and strike the stage area, lighting and seats every day, and actors will be required to help with this before and after every show, including the get-out after the final show.


The play opens with Sister Anderson and Kay Sadler, a student nurse, coming into Ken’s room for the initial morning tasks. The Sister is clearly the voice of authority, though Ken tries to joke with her to lighten the atmosphere, despite the obvious seriousness of the situation. He also establishes a friendly rapport with Kay and with John, a young orderly. Visits from Dr Scott, a registrar, and Dr Michael Emerson, a senior consultant, make it abundantly clear that, not only will Ken be unable to use his limbs again, but it’s unlikely he will ever leave hospital. By next morning Ken has made up his mind that he wants to be allowed to depart, although this will mean his death, and asks the Sister to contact his solicitor, Philip Hill, on the pretext of discussing compensation. A visit from Mrs Margaret Boyle, a social worker attempting to make Ken think of all the things he’ll be able to do despite his paraplegia, infuriates him and only serves to make him all the more determined to leave the hospital.

Act II begins with the first visit from Philip Hill. He is initially taken aback by Ken’s request and feels he should consult Dr Emerson. The latter’s intransigent approach convinces the solicitor that he should take on Ken’s case, depending only on whether Ken is mentally fit to plead. The hospital psychiatrist’s report deems him to be too depressed, whereas the independent psychiatrist assesses him to have the necessary mental capacity. Philip Hill therefore decides to act for Ken and to go for habeas corpus, which says essentially it is illegal to deprive anyone of their liberty without proper cause. It is a quick procedure and can be heard by a single judge in the hospital. The hearing takes place in Ken’s room with the Judge, Justice Millhouse, questioning witnesses, especially Ken and Dr Emerson. The judge then leaves the room briefly before returning to deliver the verdict. What is the outcome? Come to the auditions to find out!

Roles available

Ken Harrison – (M, 25 – 45): Formerly a sculptor but now paralysed from the neck down after a car accident. Obviously intelligent and must give the impression of being full of vigour and having had a lot of life left in him before the accident. Has a girlfriend, whom he refuses to see.

Sister Anderson – (F, 30 – 50): Has to have an air of authority but is not as tough as she likes to appear.

Kay Sadler – (F, 18 – 25): A student nurse, who is keen to learn and do the right thing. Initially is a little unsure as to how to react to Ken. Appears to be annoyed by John’s attentions but secretly is quite flattered by them.

John – (M, 18 – 30): A ward orderly. West Indian, according to the text; therefore ideally played by a black actor, though this is not a must. Constantly joking and is frank in his views of keeping someone alive in Ken’s circumstance, though he is not unkind.

Dr Scott – (F, 25 – 40): A registrar. Though a doctor, she is very understanding of Ken’s point of view. Personable enough to be fancied by both Ken and Philip Hill.

Dr Michael Emerson – (M, 45 – 65): Consultant physician, very strong in his somewhat old-school views. Believes in doing the right thing and that means keeping a patient alive at all costs.

Philip Hill – (M, 30 – 45): A solicitor. Pragmatic and believes his first duty is to his client. A good listener.

Margaret Boyle – (F, 30 – 55): A social worker, who is desperately keen to help Ken but strikes the wrong note. Professional but not very imaginative. Could be played by a man.

Justice Millhouse – (M or F, 50 – 70): Key role in the final scene. Has gravitas, tempered with humanity.

Judge’s Clerk – (M or F, any age): Non-speaking role.

The playing ages are suggestions not prescriptions so please only treat them as indications.

Audition Process

OTG auditions are open to anyone; you do not need to be a member to audition (though we ask that successful auditionees join for a modest subscription).

There will be 3 first-round auditions and then recalls by invitation only.

There is no need to prepare anything and you do not need to come to more than one first-round audition. Photocopied scenes will be provided and, since most of the play consists of conversations between two people, most of these will be dialogues, although there will also be one or two monologues. You will be given some minutes to prepare your scene before presenting it.

The sessions will run for 1½ or 2 hours and you will be given the opportunity to work on a range of scenes in a variety of different roles. It will be a relaxed and informal process; we’re not expecting a fully rounded performance at this stage!

If invited to the recalls, you will be informed as soon as possible after the last of the first-round auditions. This is the point at which we will be looking at specific characters and combinations.

It would be helpful if you could bring a completed audition form, but forms will also be available on the day.

The audition policy applies to all OTG auditions.

Accessibility concerns

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with us (timeyres@hotmail.com) and we will help if we can.


What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact the director (timeyres@hotmail.com) and we will try to see you at another time.