Disability is only the Introduction
In seeking to describe the phenomenon that is the Arts and Disability Forum Belfast week long events I thought of the glass ceiling. Instead the forum has the capacity to have everyone engage with disability issues and reflect on very ones disability of one kind an another. So I came up with the concept of us walking uncomfortably on our own eggshells. No-one is immune from a disability and health issues encroach into everyone’s daily existence. Disability rights have meant there has been an annexing of disability into categories and a spectrum of mis-functions. There arises a collective of the separation on each form of disability which is summoned to lobby and integrate with the medical and emotional practices that need to be confronted.
Expression in this pieces title is Experience mostly recited through the vast array of arts medium seen, heard, signaled, felt, spoken, tasted is of all the sensations acting on us.
It gives each a sense of understanding, appreciation, acuteness, a things worth, security, isolation from the world and nature which is our space.
Bounce happen to collect a body of people whose disabilities have given them insights and factors to contend with others have only partial awareness of. By expressing their life and using it as an abundant well of emotional penetrating intelligence the life we live in is greatly enhanced and appreciation while understanding is only part of the interplay all enjoy the fact complexities of being are infinite.
I for one cannot imagine the millisecond upon millisecond of a severely disabled persons life, building those evaporating moments together into billions and trillion billions of time it is hard to imagine but it is traveling along every bit as linear as anyone’s. The split seconds alter when bodies behaviours are interrupted, disconnected from the signals of a mind whose life has been managing another story than the one we are used too. Inexplicably so, uncontrollably signals are pushed along damage of the creation of God to persist in exacting all that is good.
If these spasms could speak by Robert Softley A Creative Scotland with The Arches production. Producer Bruce Strachan Director Sam Rowe.
In performance the capsule that Robert Softley has put together as an active one hour play is astonishing in its connectivity and guidance. Where ignorance and unknowing are challenged; the audience in the first instance want to be informed and share collectively and internally the feelings washing through the space Robert occupies and envelops. He packages up from other disabled persons individual stories drawing them into his own story.
Characteristic of a pragmatic Scotsman he self deprecatingly takes the piss out of his different set of issues in contrast to most of the audience by starting out with the fact his speech is imparted and on a backdrop screen methodically and incrementally his words are scattered as text up on the screen. We notice later on that this is replaced as we learn quickly Roberts mode of speech irregular as it may seem.
Cerebal palsy is not a word or disability it is easy to get your tongue around he points out and he builds a picture of food and drink parameters that he needs to fuel his very very active body spasms which are un programmable and as a consequence proteins are burnt to deal with the amount of convulsions no matter how small or insignificant they are at different times.
Robert asks the audience to consider his body this way and to note how muscle toned it makes him as he surveys the arrival of some additional fat or paunch like middle age spread. Explaining his sexual desires and his hitting it of with partners of the same and different sex, the dialogue satiates our desire to know how his sex life differs. His life he says is of being continually horn but with some random nods and sex organ dis behaviours to cope with which only enlighten and displace the daily routine and the puts in place a rationality that this is like all urges of the kind pleasure filled and satiating. He gulps with delight and spits out, not literally you fool! his diatribe on the ups and downs and sideways and back enjoyments and pains of sexual pairing. Everyone is filling the room with laughter and feeding back to Robert our own heartfelt anxieties and our stumbling onto unexpected locations of pleasure with sparks and flames burning and going out when something pisses on the love from our immutable senses.
A love found by looking is his message.
Everyone shares this connection and the boundaries and eggshells are forgotten as we throw our vocalized laughter and cheers as a prove life of encounter with Robert. Our feelings and consequently our appreciation has been taken to another level in this seemingly minor act of theatre. It is immense and will long remain with everyone in the room.
Medical Know How
Expressed and implicit in Robert Softleys story is to educate us all and to share with individuals coping with variations of mis-function how important for them to have a voice and use it. A proposal by Doctors to have him fitted with calipers to stretch his legs as a teenager told of the reaction this had from Robert. Strongly he refused this treatment allying it to pain and pointlessness completely misunderstood by health care professionals.
You could feel the grief in the room of folk considering what those who have not been able to assess and voice their views must have suffered not simply endured. Such was the graphic means and theatrical sharpness this and other basic acts of mindless physicians trying to make corrections – and Robert compared their approach to fixing cars – were driven like nails fixing us under the impressed gravity of the facts conveyed succinctly and admirably by Robert. It was more than observational humour or light touch statement making. It was multi-coloured content, beneath the flesh irascible contagious warmth for humans and our multitude of cords and nerves were ironically fixed and furiously delivering in rapid superenergised rapid sequence to our minds, the Cerebal cortex it elevated the continuum of the evolving panoply of emotions building and building in fre spaces of our minds new information linked God knows how between us amongst us and in us.
In line with the collective who run TenX9 once a month in Belfast, check website of the same name, they joined ADF to put together a TenX5 co rising five people from the disability community and create an audience for them to tell a story elation g to their lives and let us know moe about them.
As with the ethos of TenX9 what is said in the room stays in the room as some stories are very personal and those bold enough to get up can rely on their being privacy for the story which is used to educate the audience and fill the person involved with a level of confidence and in an intimate surrounding. Like a large dinner party without the after gossip and back over the shoulder asides and I think I’ll leave it at that.
The individuals needless to say were very very thought provoking and had highly personal tales to get across with an audience in the Lyric Naughton Studio supportive and receptive of every word. I will remember the people long after and met some again at other events.
Let me Stay by Julie McNamara
Julie is a one-woman whirlwind who has a story to tel of her mother Shirley, Queen of the Mersey’s journey into Alzheimer’s disease.
The Naughton Studio again came into effective use, this time with the bleachers pulled out, providing a conventional stage, raked seating setting.
Now Julie began immediately throwing herself into her mothers part, indeed shoes came up as frequent personality quotients from slippers to high heels to shiny gold specked show stoppers. Shirley came from Co. Down and found herself in Liverpool and a husband who was a dandy spotted the very attractive youthful Shirley and that was that. Her singing and theatrical drive found her in clubs and on the Liverpool social circuit. Shirley’s songs were played and a texts screen captured every word on the circular set.
The set had a semi circle of layered boxes which served as a projection screen and Julie waltzed us through the life and times of this still perky woman who is now a woman of closed inner sacrum recognising another set of parameters so different from the past. Memory has locked things away never to be brought out again but music is a constant pleasure for Shirley as she recalls all the best songs from the glory days.
This is a tender loving biography for Shirley which is adored by wide audiences as it fits into so many people’s own struggles with Alzheimer’s in their family. None the same and everyone as complex a set of issues to deal with.
Julie McNamara has sat down with the idea and talked over the stories Shirley would want to have in the Play we now see. From Song choices to the very beautiful montages and visuals we are hearing it from Shirley through Julie. The boxes break up the images sufficiently enough not to make it intrusive and the dignity despite the newest tendency of Shirley to speak her mind using the F word as a gobstopper, and why wouldn’t she be entitled to pour out a few expletives if they polished out a few home truths about the world seen through her eyes.
It is a very effective piece of theatre and drama of social disability and coping. I certainly hope it reaches a wider audience and we have a lot to thank Julie McNamara for shining the light on the subject.
Borderline Project by Shiro Masuyama
This was an installation within a two bed caravan parked alongside the Lyric which Shiro adds to and has been adding to since about this time last year. It comprises a caravan of two distinct nationalities expressed in each side, by half, through everyday domestic bric a brac and memorabilia. It is kitchen without the kindness and as an artist obviously very insightfully observant about how Britishness and Irishness are expressed through the design of food wrappers, Tayto v Cadburys, from Tea Canisters, Lyons v Barry’s there is a proliferation of shock candid evaluation going on which is end idly taking all of us to task in the accumulations of our lives.
It is dizzingly daft and at the same time profoundly good subjective art.
If you want to know more another daft project had Shiro Sheep shearing and the photos of the result and his reversal of fortune for the piebald sheep is another piece of originality he lays claim to.
One of us must Die by Gareth Berliner and Kiruna Stamell
Enabled by The Disability Arts Touring Network and DaDa Fest.
I didn’t get to see this couples play unfortunately but I add a note or two.
Kiruna who has dwarfism met the sardonic abnormally funny comedian Gareth and they connected. Married and living in London, Gareths British,
Kirunas Australian, and no they don’t live on the Earls Court Road or anywhere close, they create stories which relate to our latent body fascism with a special place for a gun.
Whether its deliberate for a Belfast audience I can assure you that’s not the case but they have it in for ignorance and there is no better shout out needed.
ADF don’t stop there, the year has many outreach and on site events from the headquarters in 109-113 Royal Avenue which once was Hercules Street.
A very pleasurable feast of from people who’s life’s are without question very different and more challenging than the majority. It was an honor to be given the opportunity to be a part of the collective good atmosphere and vibe of incomparable people and every success is wished for continued Expression on life by these folk and all who are similarly energised to reach out.
3 September 2014