Ken Harrison changes throughout the play as he fights for the right to decide his own fate. What you must keep in-mind as you perform is that Ken used to be a creative, useful person leading a normal life yet now he is frustrated by the injuries he has suffered and their effects on him as a man. This questioning of the medical authorities is a very modern and current idea. The issues that come out of this play are should patients be aloud to decide their own fate? And do the medical profession have the right to operate without the patients permission when he or she is contuse or the families permission if their not contuse.
The play begins, immediately Ken is aggressive towards the medical proffeciaon (nurses and doctors). This seems to be because angry and bitter about the parralysis he has suffered as a result of his car accident. When he first meets Nurse Sadler, he sarcastically says:
“Hello, I am afraid I can’ offer you my hand. You’ll just have to do with my backside like all the other nurses”.
One can see his anger in the usage of the mild taboo word ‘backside.’ Later, he compares Dr Emerson to doctor Frankenstein and himself to the monster who should now be released. This image of him shows he is angry about not being able to function like a normal human being. Ken Harrison is angry because his verility is in question.
Ken lets everyone involved with him know how he is feeling through his sexual jokes aimed at the nurses. He seems to do this because this is the one part of him the medical profession cant repair. Ken twists the sister’s words when she renters the room: –
Sister: “Have you finished nurse?”
Ken: “What do you mean have I finished nurse I haven’t even started her yet.”
Ken is making jokes by twisting other peoples words this shows that he is quick whited, but also shows that he is trying to hide is sadness of his disability. When situations like this crop up in the script I want you respond very quickly before nurse saddler for instance would have time to respond to the sisters question. Ken’s sexual frustration can cause him to snap very easily, at times he can make jokes over the situation but at others he takes his anger out not through humour but though aggression towards the medical profession.
Ken tends to suffer from frequent mood swings these become noticeable at the very start of the play. Ken’s reason for this is that at certain times he can push his condition and pain to the back of his mind, but having able bodied people working around him upsets him this is because he isn’t ever going to be able to operate his limbs ever again. In one such situation the sister comes to visit Ken, this is the morning after Dr Emerson has injected Ken against his will.
Ken: “I’ve been thinking?”
Nurse: “You do to much of that.”
Ken: “What other activity do you suggest? …. Football? I tell you sister, just leave me alone with Nurse Sadler here. Lets see what the old Adam can do for me.”
In this part of the play we see evidence of Ken’s mood swings by how quickly he snaps and then returns to normal. When nurse saddler says “you do to much of that” I want you to sound outraged, my reason for this is there isn’t any other possible activity you can do. Later in the play Ken meets Mrs Boyle the hospital social worker. At the beginning of this conversation Ken is being calm and friendly, but as the scene continues you get the impression Ken doesn’t like her, the conversation then finishes by Ken shouting at Mrs Boyle to get out. This is yet more evidence of Ken’s mood swings. This time the swing was because Ken was being told what to do by someone not involved in his condition. It seems that most of the time Ken enjoys having people to chat to but at times this can cause him to snap and he seems unfriendly towards authority.
Ken can be unfriendly to people if they catch him at the wrong time or he thinks they aren’t able to do anything to help him. This is because a result of his paralysis he can’t move and he is upset so by upsetting others this makes him feel better. This is shown whilst Ken is talking with the nurse he says
“I don’t want any more of that, its horrid. Patients are requested not to ask for credit for their intelligence, as refusal often offends”.
Ken does this to upset the nurse, and after that comment you can tell that the nurse is a bit upset, but Ken reassures her he’s not mad with her. I want you when performing parts like this one to sound angry but then sound kind after the other character has said their line. Ken’s unfriendliness is noticeable more at the start of the play than towards the end, but towards the end of act 1 is making more direct comments on sex.
Ken is now starting to make more sexual comments, rather than jokes he is making comments about sex towards the doctors and nurses. He is starting to make less jokes and more direct comments because he is starting to think more about his future and whether it is worth him having one. Evidence of this is during a conversation with Dr Scott at the end of act 1
Ken: “You have lovely breasts.”
Dr Scott: “I beg your pardon?”
Ken: “I said you have lovely breasts.”
One notices that the comments are becoming more direct and less neutral and harmless. At this point when you make that comment I want you to sound almost disappointed that she has lovely breasts, this is because you are missing the use of your sexual organs. Ken is starting to act more serious than he was earlier in the play rather than making sexual jokes he is now making sexual comments this show a change in his attitude.
Ken’s reactions to his disability are starting to change, instead of getting angry he is becoming depressed. This is because although over 6-8 months after the accident the fact that he wont be able to use his skills in the same way again is starting to sink in, so his attitude is changing. This is show best shown in a conversation with Dr Scott at the end of act 1
Ken: “You haven’t ‘provoked’ me, as you put it, but you are a woman and even though I’ve only a piece of knotted string between my legs, I still have a mans mind. One change that I have noticed is that I now engage in sexual banter with young nurses, searching for the double entendre in the most innocent of remark. Like a sexually desperate middle-aged man. Then when they leave the room I go cold with embarrassment. Its fascinating isn’t it? Laughable. I still have a tremendous sexual desire. Do you find that disgusting?”
Dr Scott: “No.”
Dr Scott: “Sad.”
Ken: “I am serious you know …about deciding to die.”
From this comment from Ken at the end of the conversation we can tell that his attitude has changed from someone who try’s to hide his emotions by making jokes to someone who is very depressed and wants to kill himself. Ken’s attitudes have differed to the start of the play he is now felling depressed. Yet Ken is becoming more argumentative.
We can see that at the end of act 1 Ken is attempting to win every argument. This is because if he is going to win the right to die then he must convince as many people as possible. We can see evidence of this still In the same convesation with docter scott.
Ken: “I am serious you know about… deciding to die.”
Dr Scott: “You will get over that feeling.”
Ken: “How do you know?”
Dr Scott: “From experience.”
Ken: “That doesn’t alter the validility of my decsion now.”
From this one can see it is obvious that Ken being the intelligent man he is, has got an answer to everything. He cant afford to lose arguments because his right to decide his future his in the balance. I want you to act through this as if you know better than the doctors, remember your fighting for your rights.
Through Ken’s assertiveness and his surprise decision he starting to upset people again.
Ken is yet again upseting people this time though his reasons have changed rather than meaning to upset them he is doing so by making his decisions about his future. Ken is not meaning to upset everyone and by the start of act 2 he is no longer upsetting anyone on purpouse. This is shown best at the very end of doctor scoots convocation with Ken; this also makes more sense if I include the stage directions.
Dr Scott: “I must go now. I was halfway through Mr Patel.”
(She walks to the door)
Ken: “I thought you where just passing. Oh doctor… one more thing.”
Dr Scott: “Yes?”
Ken: “You still have lovely breasts.”
(She smiles and goes into the sister’s office. She is very upset. Sister passes and looks at her.)
Sister: “Are you all right,? would you like a cup of tea?”
Dr Scott: “Yes sister, I would.”
From this we can see that you or Ken Harrison is not meaning to upset the doctor, but she cares about you and will miss you if you die. Dr Scott is undecided whether she wants you to have your wish and die or live and see what things you could possibly achieve. Ken is upsetting a lot of people who care about him, people such as john, nurse and dr Scott but he isnt thinking of them he is thinking of his own benefit he has mixed emotions over the court case he is going to have to fight.
Before the court case begins Ken seems calm. This is because he is laughing and joking with john and nurse saddler. John comes in with the sister chair as nurse and John are setting up the seats for the hearing.
Nurse: “He’s funny.”
Ken: “He’s more than that he’s free!”
Ken: “Free of guilt. Almost everybody here feels guilt about me -including you. That’s why you didn’t tell me what a fantastic time dancing you had. So everybody makes me feel worse because I make them feel guilty. But not john. He’s sorry for me but he knows bloody well it isn’t his fault. He’s a tonic.”
(John comes back carrying sister’s armchair.)
Nurse: “John! Did sister say you could have that chair?”
John: “She wasn’t there…”
Ken: (Laughing to nurse saddler) “See?”
We can see that in this scene john is trying to help Ken to forget about the case and relax by making Ken laugh by telling jokes. I want you to just act as if there was no court case you just act relaxed by laughing at John.
John helps Ken to relax by treating him not as patient but a normal human being, but at the very end of the play Ken is feeling both calm and nervous.
At the very end of the play Ken is unsure how to feel, he gets a mixture of emotions ranging from happy to scare once he has won the court case.
This is probably because although he has won the court case he is now going to die. This is best shown in the conversation on the last page between Ken and Emerson.
Dr Emerson: “Where will you go?”
Ken: “I’ll get a room somewhere.”
Dr Emerson: “There’s no need.”
Ken: “Don’t let’s…”
Dr Emerson: “We’ll stop treatment, remove drips. Stop feeding you if you like. You’ll be unconscious in three days dead in six at most.”
Ken: “There’ll bee no last minute attempts at resuscitation?”
Dr Emerson: “Only with your expressed permission.”
Ken: “That’s very kind why are you doing it?”
Dr Emerson: “Simple! You might change your mind.”
Ken then smiles and shakes his head, from this you can see Ken wasn’t sure he was going to win his case he doesn’t know what to do now.
When you are acting this I want you to be unsure of your self as if you didn’t expect to win but as if you’ve had a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Ken although he is going to die, is pleased with his resulting win.
You will notice that throughout the play Ken changes, at the beginning he seems contuse of his condition but he doesn’t seem as serious about it, he seems more relaxed, we see this through his use of jokes. As we progress to the middle of the play you begin to see the serious side of Ken Harrison, he is making less jokes and his anger is becoming more obvious, we can see evidence of this more towards the end of the play as he snaps more often. At the end of the play after the case he seems to be very relived as if the tension has been extracted out of him, I want you when performing this to exaggerate this relief.
We also see how the medical profession becomes less interested in the patients feelings the higher up the authority ladder. My view is that you need to make the audience feel upset at the end of the play because I want you to have made them feel like they know you I want the audience to feel sorry for you. Also at the same time I want the audience to be happy that you have won your tough fight against the medical profession this is going to be a difficult task to pull off but I am confident that you can make the audience feel for you.