Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Bella Freak

Disability History Scotland

Genre: Theatre, Verbatim Theatre

Venue: the Space at Surgeon's Hall


Low Down

Three people, each with experience of their time in the UK as having a disability recount their uncomfortable tales for us where they have first hand knowledge of a system that works, not for them, but often against them.


This was a simply staged verbatim piece of theatre that had three people tell us their stories. Without much artifice, we got how one woman ended being missed and ignored, one man with Asperger’s ended up being diagnosed at 21 but not told until 8 years later and another wheelchair user who had a largely positive experience at his secondary school in Lanarkshire. Testimony to their resilience and the lack of understanding historically they leave us with one hope – that others shall not suffer as they have.

Our first testimony is from a woman who sets the scene as she has such a rich back story. This includes a remarkable story of her Nan which was the incredible tale of the women in Covent Garden market. This was brought to her attention from a Lindsay Anderson film to a Peter Ackroyd book, in both of which she was to appear. Alongside that and the use of songs to keep us focused we are given a rich tapestry with the mantra, the first time I disappeared was when I was special.  She did, however stop talking to the dead when she started to consume words.

Our second testimony, from Stuart, who has Asperger’s, is similarly negative in how his treatment at the hands of experts was anything but expertly handled. With his obsession with Dr Who and his abilities to engage so smartly the revelation that he is now very happily in a relationship comes as no surprise.

Our third testimony gives us a contrary view as our wheelchair user with the dyed red hair had a positive time in Robert Owen Primary and Lanark Grammar School – a school with whom I am now often working. It was an interesting tale as he demonstrated common cause with the other pupils whilst also showing how he could be anonymous in the scheme of things too.

Whilst the stories were fascinating, this was a theatre and the theatricality of them was what had drawn us to them at the fringe. For me there was enough in their telling with the use of music appealing, the set up onstage working well and theatre arts, particularly lighting used well to keep us entertained and challenged for the 45 minutes.

At times though, it felt a little like Disability Anonymous and I found myself desperate to know and see more. I suppose in a way that is precisely the point of the whole exercise so I should just cut it out…

As a theatre piece it therefore worked at times and at others it suffered from the tonal changes and subtlety of interplay that would have made this less of a lecture and more engaging – I hope the sequel is therefore being planned.


Show Website

Bella Freak