Clowning to Death with Nalini Sharma

Nalini Sharma had several brushes with death in her childhood. In her show, Until Death, she uses clowning as a way of exploring these memories. I spoke to Nalini and got a taste of what to expect.

I want audiences to reflect on their deaths

To start us off, can you summarise Until Death in a single sentence?

Until Death is set in a hospital where time collapses and humans panic in moments of death and existence.

It’s fair to say you were no stranger to hospitals as a child.

I was in and out of the hospital a lot growing up because of motorcycle accidents and such: several close calls. When you grow up with these experiences, you aren't quite sure how they’ve affected you. And I wanted to explore that.

This story is a road to discovery for me as a human, a woman, a brown woman, and an artist.

How did you find the experience of recalling these times?

It's tough because you rely so much on memories. And memories can be fickle. Sometimes they're someone else's memory of you. Sometimes, with time, they lose or change detail.

But what remains the same are the feelings. Or the physical embodiment of those feelings. Like how often a wound was itchy. Or how much you screamed in pain. Not necessarily feeling the depth of that pain but remembering how long you screamed.

The show includes patients other than you. Were these also drawn from your memories?

Until Death weaves through vignettes of people (and animals) who are either on the brink of death themselves or coping with a loved one's road to the end of life.

I remember meeting so many incredible people in those hospital stays, and I wanted to share their experiences. I knew that somehow, somewhere, they affected mine.

A woman who was in the ICU once said to me, "I never should have given a kidney to my daughter". That line still haunts me today and is the foundation for Veena, one of my characters.

Moments that come and go, but stick with you the rest of your life, they were a huge inspiration for weaving this piece together.

Tell us about the format of Until Death.

It is a solo show that combines absurdist theatre and clowning with a touch of circus.

I think clowning particularly serves this piece because of its mercurial style which parallels the nature of childhood memories and imagination. Combined with more traditional vignettes, it grounds the piece in its autobiographical stories.

In exactly 50 words, tell our readers why they should book to see Until Death when it plays TheSpaceUK - Surgeons Hall from August 4th-26th (except 13th).

Until Death will make you feel alive.

We all hope, as creators and artists, to inspire, move, and make people laugh but I especially want audiences to reflect on their deaths. I hope that makes them want to get out of their skin, heads and hearts and LIVE their LIFE.

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