FringeReview Scotland 2016
Fundraising for the sick mother of one of the group, this is a community on a sponsored silence that descends into mayhem, cheesy proposals and the best set of mechanicals in the city. Billie’s mum is in hospital and the local community get together to raise money for her. Within minutes of the start, Billie has transgressed and been pit oot! She does not wish to go willingly and enlists Stacy to help her try and get others in the group to also talk out, thus making her rebellion meaningful. Like all feel good plays we end up with harmony by the end along with the spontaneity of love but in between the mayhem is palpable.
This multi layered performance piece had me chuckling from the beginning. There were 21 performers onstage who were 1 down due to an injury to one of their cast; I swear you wondered where he had been shoehorned in! What was most impressive were the layers that had been measured and placed carefully on the shoulders of this very strong company. The experience that so many of these performers now have was evident as they acted like veterans throughout.
From Billie, played by Nicola Tuxworth, who had a huge amount of words to learn to those whose participation was silent there was never a point in this where I sat back and thought, I don’t believe in this. In terms of acting ability what we got was truth with a disabled perspective. Any judgment on capabilities or abilities has to be couched in those terms. If Kevin Spacey can ask for his actors to seek truth, he would have left grinning after seeing this.
The most impressive part of it was the layers. We had sub plots, music, physical comedy and comic timing the like of which has not been seen since variety was King. As such I have to give special mention to the mechanicals. The five workies who arrived to be “the guys who help” and wore their bowler hats and hi vis vests like they were born into them. They brought energy and vitality but also well choreographed set pieces that may have been less than original but were never less than bleeding hilarious!
The script was spot on and Douglas Maxwell continues to add diversity and inclusiveness to the quirky and creative streak that has brought us Decky, Helmet and Southside before this.
Such execution between characters, the sub plots of the headless Christ, the lottery winner and how they ostracised Billie in the first place gave each member of the cast a structure upon which they could hang their own creativity. Each cast member drew in their own performances and there was not a dropped baton in this relay. We got distinct and distinctive characterisations in a storyline that brought us pathos towards the end. As real issues became clear we also got the dollop of cheese thrown in for good measure and let me tell you, Tuxworth as Billie kept us hanging over her answer just long enough to make me believe that this was no sop or fairy tale.
Lung Ha have long had a reputation for being a benchmark for integrated arts; this proves they have learnt from their past and want to remark out the future. There is a resurgence in disability arts where we have mainstream theatre finally waking up to the strength of disabled artists and taking them on board. There is, however still a place and there should always be a place at any artists’ table for exclusive disability voices. Lung Ha have shown that theirs is a voice which is one that is not only well worth listening to but borne out of a wealth of experience too. That experience has been to build a troupe of artists who can. Investment over time delivers quality that shines with the ability people have to BE. Lung Ha happen to BE the top of our tree for disabled performers; it means this is a show we should certainly NOT be keeping quiet about!