Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Hennie van Greunen’s play takes a penetrating look as disability in a touching, sometimes dramatic, and often humorous love story that combines sharp monolgue with emotional music.
Normality is humorous, gentle love story, a tale of simple human needs. In Hennie van Greunen’s story of a disabled man with "a body that launched a thousand fits", the central character discovers that, even in a disfigured body, wracked with pain, "love helps you drift away from yourself." It’s backdrop is disability, its message is universal.
Alex Miller, played to perfection by Pedro Kruger, is a permanent resident on the "Wheel of misfortune", a man with a "wonky" body. "Normal", until his third birthday, he then developed Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, not expected to live long, we now meet him as a fully grown adult, shaking a witty fist at his Maker, a man who has experienced "pain that even the Devil can’t imagine".
He is 35 now thirty-five, in a life where climbing stairs is his Everest. What unfolds is a one-man play about being okay with a reality you are used to – abnormality is normality when it is your own perpetual mental or physical state. This is a man who experiences freedom in music "As long as the music flows you’re Okay."
The episodes are played out with a mixture of physicality, masterly observation and irony, emotion, music and terrific comic timing. The central portrayal, characterisation and delivery is stunningly strong.
Alex dreams of a woman, not of sex, but of physical contact with another person This "alternatively enabled" man craves physical touch. In a tale that is informative without being overtly educational, Alex develops a crush on Lisa, who steps unexpectedly into his life. Events unfold, and I won’t spoil it for you. It’s a life-affirming tale, never sentimental, it feels real. The pain, the joy, the longing.
The music is played on a piano-keyboard with 100% vocal and finger-energy and skill. "Falling in Love is like Falling off a Cliff" was a particular favourite. I am not completely sure why this music, and its retro-style, is in this play. The play might be even more powerful and might flow better as a straight piece of delivered physical monologue-theatre. Sometimes the music feels like an unnecessary interruption. Kruger is such an excellent interpreter of Alex – physically and vocally, and the writing flows so well as drama-story, the music sometimes gets in the way.
Despite this, there’s much humour to enjoy in the autobiography – in music and in spoken word, on finding love, a love that holds us up, prevents us from sinking. The emotion builds slowly and we are taken into uncomfortable territory, yet ultimately, sensual and life-affirming. It’s an outstanding work, and well worth five stars. And the emotion of the piece, particularly towards is the end is spot on.
A hidden gem at the Pleasance Dome and winner of our first "Hidden Gem" Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2009