Maggie Hampton from Disability Arts Cymru caught Laurence Clark's Unlimited commission - 'Inspired', at the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 26 June
I was so pleased to see that Laurence’s latest show, Inspired, was to be part of the Unity Festival at the WMC in Cardiff Bay. The Weston Studio can be a rather unforgiving venue, but there was certainly a very good audience on the night.
Seats were unreserved and foolishly, I had not thought to check beforehand about communication support. I suppose I’d been spoilt, as the last two of Laurence’s shows I’ve seen had speech-to-text support. The lights dimmed, Laurence came on accompanied by a sign language interpreter. She went and stood the opposite side of the stage from me, so it was difficult to see her clearly and too late then for me to move.
I wouldn’t have understood much anyway as she was using full British Sign Language rather than my personal preference for a Sign Supported English / BSL mix. Better still would have been speech-to-text, then I could have access in my first language. Who was the BSL for, I wondered? There were no Deaf BSL users in the audience, and probably not likely to be as the show is very much ‘hearing humour.’
Laurence does a great take on Inspiration, turning the whole thing upside down and inside out. As a disabled / deaf person myself, I know very well that rather bizarre pressure to be ‘inspiring’; on top of all the other rubbish we have to deal with, it is just one ask too many as far as I am concerned.
I enjoyed the film clips where Laurence approached members of the public and told them how inspirational they were for doing ordinary, everyday things like holding a cup of coffee, or opening the door to the loo. The audience loved it. I could see them all rocking with laughter. I could actually feel everyone getting the jokes.
I especially loved the film where Laurence was trying to get people to talk to him. The dazed and confused Great British Public went out of their way to avoid talking to ‘the man in the wheelchair’, preferring to take their chances with the man who spoke no English at all. They could not even be bribed with free packets of ‘crips’! This film sequence was a very visual joke, complete with sign posts held up by the actors and handwritten captions added during editing. Just perfect for me. And really, really funny.
I’m afraid the more talky bits of the show went over my head because of communication issues. I know it was good; Laurence is a very polished entertainer, the audience laughed and the technology behaved beautifully (as far as I could tell).
An Inspirational night out then; fabulous, cutting edge disability humour and everyone went away smiling. I do hope Laurence will consider speech-to-text provision for his shows in future; there is a whole audience of hard-of-hearing and deafened people who would probably love it. And I will be first in the queue.
'Inspired' is part of the London 2012 Festival which will play at the following venues: