How Disabled Are You?

The audience are greeted with the glow of orange lights shining from various lamps around the room. A looping audio plays aloud asking, pleading 'why won’t they let me heal?' sounding increasingly desperate as it loops on. The ground is littered with crumpled up papers, copies of the scripts the actors read out. Scripts that harbour a vendetta against all those claiming benefits, and the actors all add to the mass of crumpled paper on the floor after they finish reading each sheet.

This heartfelt creation brings to light the truth about disability

The actors sit at a table in the centre of the room. A union jack tablecloth is laid on top, with copies of The Daily Mail thrown on and a whole loaf of sliced white bread stabbed with a bread knife as the centrepiece. At the front of the room hangs a washing line with items pegged on to it. The whole set screams anger with a dash of intense patriotism, and effectively sets the scene for the words about to be read aloud.

The lighting is clever and effective, with each lamp turning off in time with the repeating audio as the show is about to begin. A video starts to play, projected onto the sheet hung on the clothesline. We watch clips of MPs arguing about disability benefits and Jeremy Kyle shouting about how the disabled are 'lazy', which are interspersed with real statistics about how drastically benefits are being cut. The music blares out loudly, so much so that when the sudden silence comes, it feels shocking, preparing the audience to perhaps be even more shocked.

A harsh orange light glares on and the first actor begins to read the person's interview aloud; the interviewee's mother claimed benefits, but supposedly spent her money on cider and cigarettes. 'If I was Prime Minister' the new paragraph began, 'I wouldn’t let people have benefits. They don’t deserve them.' The actor, who is seeing the script for the first time, is disabled themselves, and the shock and anger in their voice is evident. As their blood boils, so does ours. They finish reading the script and their face creases in outrage as they crumple the pages and throw them amongst the others on the floor. This is repeated and, as the final actor begins to read, the audience visibly tenses as they hear the line 'but they can walk fine so they can’t be disabled.' The actor pauses, visibly shaken. The audience is still.

We then hear about the producer’s own story, and his personal struggle with an 'invisible' disability. His heartfelt creation brings to light the truth about disability. It gives it a face, a name, and a story that needs to be heard.

Reviews by Amira Hanna

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Since you’re here…

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You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Tommy asks three disabled people, who claim benefits, with no performance background to take the stage and read a script for the first time in front of you, the live audience. What happens when disabled people are stripped of their voice and confronted with opinions filled with pent up aggression, violence and The Daily Mail? This is a show that explores real attitudes towards those who claim benefits, who drink out of Sports Direct mugs and have disabilities that aren’t always visible to the eye. “It’s important that voices and stories such as Tommy’s are heard in theatre” (A Younger Theatre)

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