Fringe Online 2020
Young Jack, a wheelchair user, has had a bad, but not uncommon experience at a bus stop where the bus driver is unable to get the bus prepared for his chair. In the queue a woman vocally complains of how ridiculous it is that they are all made to stand and wait whilst trying to accommodate a young disabled person. Jack wrestles with this until, through a series of conversations with his carer, Steven and mum and dad, he decides to complain.
The charm about this is not that it is Lung Ha. The charm starts at the complexity of the script. Showing great maturity, Gavin Yule, who also plays Jack, has clearly benefitted from the opportunity to work with Andrew Edwards but the voice in here is that of disabled people the country over. These events happen constantly, and it is to Yule’s credit that he has been able to stop himself from shouting about it in a direct polemic. Instead he subtly delves into the feelings of his character Jack to develop the layers of hurt, show the nature of the pain and the suffering he has to go through to achieve the point where he feels worthy enough to complain. We can all sit and say, if it were my son… but the reality is that for many disabled people, not saying anything or making a fuss is so much part of their lives that they would ask us not to bother.
Billed as a rehearsed reading, the supporting cast use the zoom filming to great effect. Playing more than one character, the supporting actors made this a truly enchanting event. Emma Cafferty showed us mum as a rounded and worried, but also a firm and directly concerned parent. We also got great cameos and principal characters from Ryan Duncan and Scott Davidson. This is an ensemble company where the idea of it is so beautifully crafted. The true diversity comes in who they are playing and that shines throughout the play.
Directed by company member, Nicola Tuxworth with Maria Oller supporting, this was not an easy exercise in which to make your directorial debut. Concentrating on the text and the limits brought by zoom have challenged the most experienced of directors and here we get a blend of experience guiding the freshness of someone who could and should keep this going. The empathy with the cast was clear in deft little touches. In particular I loved the scenes with dad. Davidson plays them really well and it reminded me of the awkwardness of trying to guide your own children without giving them all the answers. The hospital scenes with mum were also very touching and delivered a tenderness that added to the whole.
Lung Ha are a company with not a lot to say but also a deserved artistic confidence to give those people in our society who have been culturally disenfranchised a chance to speak up. Once the opportunity is given, they have developed spectacularly to take it. Here, is a response to the pandemic and where theatre finds itself which, for me, is one of the best I have seen. It combines giving people who are dismissed elsewhere an opportunity, continues to set a standard that is highly creative and relevant whilst not in the least bit indulgent but also offers an insight into what might be delivered once they get onstage. I can’t wait to see this bus stop lifting itself up and with pride, touring round the country once this is all over and by wi!