Guest blog: Luca Rutherford

Learning How To Die’ when you are not terminally ill.

Hello. I am Luca Rutherford. This is me:

luca 1

I am a writer and performer, based in Newcastle, and am currently touring my solo theatre show Learning How To Die.

This blog is made up of:

Secondly – An invite to come and see my show Learning How To Die.
Thirdly – My ponderings on death and Death!

So firstly; the show. I am coming to the end of my tour of Learning How To Die and would like to invite you come to performances next week at Camden People’s Theatre 3rd to 5th May at 7:30pm. I am performing at Camden People’s Theatre as part of A Nation’s Theatre, alongside the brilliant Daniel Bye with his show Going Viral. After my run I am followed by the fascinating company ivo and their show In The Vice Like Grip Of It. For those of you near Halifax I have my last performance of the tour at Square Chapel Centre for the Arts on 12th May at 8pm.


A bit about the show:

It’s a ‘show about death. It’s not a show about being sad. Or about grief. Or pity. This is a show about the actuality of dying and how an acceptance of mortality can drive a passion for life.’

… The description above is some writing I nicked from the show’s blurb. It gives you a generic idea of the show but I thought/and am hoping it would be more interesting to write about death instead of sharing my marketing materials about a show about death.

To start off here is a poem what I wrote:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Happiness is yellow.
Before I’m dead, I won’t be;
Just like you.


When I say I have made a show called Learning How To Die, lots people say: ‘What do you know about it?’ I think this happens because, I am 25 and I don’t look like I am dying. To be clear; I am not dying. Feels funny saying I am not dying because aren’t we all really? One day we will be dead; surely before we are dead we are dying? I would argue you that you do living and dying at the same time!

I feel at this point I need to tell you that my Dad is dying. He has terminal prostate cancer. Strangely, I feel like I have to tell you this bit to stop you from getting irritated at a 25year-old yabbering on about what she thinks dying is. I don’t like that I feel the need justify my reflections on death with the ‘trophy’ of experiencing someone dying. But I think that’s how things work, or at least, it’s how I have experienced things to work; we talk about death only in the presence of death, at funerals, in hospitals, at the anniversary of someone’s death. I think we are a bit snobby about death like it’s some exclusive club that only happens on certain days, invite only. It’s weird, death is the one thing we all have in common but we refuse to make it a common topic of conversation.


What Death looks like:

The thing I find weirdest about death is the fact that we make death, Death, as if Death is a person even though it’s a thing that happens.

I got fed up of Death being the grim-reaper and I would say, generally, more masculine than androgynous or feminine. So I’ve revapped Death in my head and made her my own…for me: Death is a feminist; there’s no gender inequality when it comes to human mortality. Death is a punk. Death is a woman with perk tits and no bra, black messy hair and red lipstick, when she feels like it: basically this babe:

luca 2 When I think of Death as see Death in Neil Gaiman’sNeil Gaiman’s Sandman comic, Preludes & Nocturnes Vol 1.

This is my death, she’ll be different from yours, maybe!

So, Death is a weird pronoun and noun all at the same time. My relationship with death is stranger and I feel even stranger. There’s moments when I think I’ve cracked it; when I understand what’s it all about-the living bit and the dying bit, and the being dead bit-and usually just as I think I have figured it out I have a massive wobbly and go back to understanding none of it!


‘Just get on with it’:

Last week I performed Learning How To Die at Derby Theatre, at the end of the performance an older man (I’d say 65ish) came up to me and assertively proclaimed: ‘You think too much, just get on with it’ and walked off. I see his point, but I think thinking about death helps me ‘get on with it’ better.

I started making Learning How To Die because my Dad started dying. Half way through making the show my gorgeous gorgeous friend died on the Germanwings plane crash, March last year. So with dying, death and Death slapping me in the face somewhat, I have become so focused on making my life count. But, of late, this has wound me up like a tight string until I looked like this:

luca 3

It was only last week that I suddenly realised: I had forgotten about silliness!! To this extent I get what the man was saying in Derby.


Death Cafes:

I want to think about death and talk about death. I think it’s helpful to be open in talking about death and not leaving it until someone dies or you start dying. I don’t think that talking about death makes it any less painful when it happens but I’ve found it makes my life feel richer, remembering that it won’t last forever.

Death cafes are beautiful things. People talk and listen, no agenda, no margins for profit, no trying to lead or sway anyone; people simply come together, as equals who will one day die, and share thoughts about death. It is not a grieving/bereavement or counselling session. I feel at times debate overwhelms discussion. It’s this or that. You are this or that. Them or Us. Him or Her. We define ourselves in opposition. We are against each other, as opposed to defining ourselves with each other. The one thing we all have ‘with’ each other, every single one of us, out of the 7.4billion of us on the planet, is death.

I am facilitating two more death cafes, one in London on 4th May, at Camden People’s Theatre 3pm-5pm, and in Halifax, at Square Chapel Centre for the Arts 12th May 1pm-3pm, it would be lovely if you wanted to come along and discuss death and what Death is to you.



I haven’t written this blog until now because I was waiting to be clever before I wrote it! I was waiting until I had read enough books, understood the theories, read the research, absorbed the figures, the philosophers’ notes and gathered an art history of artists that focus on death. I was waiting for all this because I was afraid to look stupid or, even worse, boring. Then I got angry at myself. I have made a show about death, which is really about living and appreciating the living we have before we do the dying bit and the being dead bit. I’ve made this show and I’m touring it and I’m getting caught up in myself and scared, and then I thought: ‘just get on with it!’

Catch Learning How To Die at CPT from 3-5 May, in a double bill with Daniel Bye’s acclaimed Going Viral. Two shows for £16!