For Their Own Good @ Summerhall

Review by Kayleigh Donaldson | 19 Aug 2013

As the audience take their seats in the crescent shaped spectator area of the former vet school’s dissection room at Summerhall, gazing down at the performance space like students waiting for a lecture to begin, there’s a distinct atmosphere in the air. In this intimidating venue, where vets in training were taught how to euthanise horses, sits a life-sized equine puppet made from old ragged fabrics. Every one of us knows what’s going to happen; it’s all about waiting for the inevitable.

For Their Own Good follows two knackermen (people who euthanise horses) as they make death their living in a society where humans sit at the top of the pile and can dictate the fates of animals because, as the title says, it’s for their own good.

The horse, a creation that fills the stage, is imbued with such spark and emotion from the simplest of movements. It becomes genuinely emotional to watch the euthanising process over and over as the knackermen casually go about their business. Humanity’s relationship with animals – from pets to family members to symbols of something bigger – plays a key role in the proceedings.

In between the central story, they share scenes from the lives (and deaths) of others around the world in the lit up paper houses surrounding them, turning off their lights with a shared nod. Ironically, in a world where a pet’s suffering can be ended humanely, the same cannot be done for the humans who dole out such decisions. Both darkly creative and genuinely humbling, For Their Own Good is a compassionate and accessible exploration of death’s role in our lives. 


For Their Own Good, Summerhall. Until 24 Aug, 4.30pm, 65 minutes, £10/£8