Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Inclusive theatre company exploring the stories of disabled people through dance, spoken word and visual imagery.
A young man expresses his frustration at being bullied at school, a strident teenager questions why she isn’t allowed to just live her life, her gentle friend shares how in love she is with her boyfriend in one breath and in the next breaks our hearts by telling us that she is leaving him because she loves him; she hopes strangers will stop staring at him for who he is going out with.
This is a play about being ignored, not listened too, but stared at, being patronised, ridiculed and being told to keep quiet. These are the true stories of the men and women who make up the company of Bedazzle Inclusive Theatre, crafted from their verbatim testimonies into a script by writer/actor Matt Hunt, choreographed by Lisa Cureton. Playing themselves and their persecutors, well-meaning teachers and misguided counsellors the company share their lived experience of being disabled people in Britain today.
If it was only spoken word there is a danger that this would feel like a lecture rather than theatre, but the combination of words, movement and music keep the piece the right side of dramatic, enabling the audience to empathise and engage with individual characters, particular through the lyrical ensemble dancing. The company could experiment with using recorded voice overs for some of the non-disabled characters, to add to the weight of persecution and prejudice, and practically this would create a change of pace and tone.
Simple but effective symbolic cages trap performers as individuals or groups and projected filmed snippets of their day to day lives add depth to this stark set. Although this is a strong ensemble special mention goes to the duet performed by Lydia Dennin and Ben Evans as the young lovers, which was tender and moving, and the beauty and expression of Ilayda Taylor-Sezgin’s dancing. SIS Martin is a strong narrator and George Ferguson is suitably unnerving as a faceless bureaucrat.
The mixed media helps makes the performance accessible and a Makaton (basic sign language) version is available through a QR code but I do think it would be possible to use captioning as well for other audience members. Funding is always a challenge for access measures but maybe a Makaton signer could be incorporated in the next iteration of the piece. This is a powerful show which is still in development and will only get better as all the performers grow in confidence and learn even more stage craft.