I saw the last show of Fittings Multimedia's Raspberry at the Clocktower, Croydon on 14 May. It was (almost) everything I hoped for with some great songs; a fantastic cabaret-style performance from Garry Robson in the role of Spasticus - a cockney-rhyming pastiche of everything that made Ian Dury great!
The off-setting of Garry's play-along delivery with the superb vocal range of Sally Clay, made for engaging entertainment with a disability message. Sally sings a mix of soul, jazz, operatic and classical styles - and if you get the chance to catch her and Garry as Blind Gurl and the Crips I'd thoroughly recommend it.
Christine Bruno as Rita, was a great choice. The plot line between her and Jem Dobbs as her Dad, could have done with a bit more development. You saw the emotional crisis coming and there weren't enough changes happening in the relationship to give it any depth.
The characters of David 'Stickman' Higgins as Albert Einstein and Sally Clay as Ray (Charles) attempted the surreal, and Albert had some lovely, mad moments. But some of the writing was a bit thin. They were brilliant musicians, but as characters were dramatically, a bit thin on the ground.
Enjoyable and captivating nonetheless. You can read some of the pithy lines that carried this performance in Colin Cameron's review on dao.
It's exciting news to hear that Graeae are continuing the Ian Dury theme with their next production Reasons to be Cheerful, coming to theatres in East London and Ipswich in October 2010.
Ian Dury was a Graeae Patron and supporter in the early years of the company. This show explores the spirit of 1979, with the backdrop of political change and violence, that formed the attitudes and expectations of a generation.
I lived opposite Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, London, when the riots went off. I remember the fear that gripped us and took me into dark so-called 'schizophrenic' waters. You had to be 'mad' to be sane to have lived through the Thatcher years and the scale of selfishness, greed and corruption that epitomised her reign.
The equality movements were birthed as a direct consequence of those oppressive times. The Disability Movement had its first teething years then. Now we are older (although not necessarily wiser) and our presence is here to stay no matter what comes...
Living with disability can get extreme sometimes. For me, living in the wake of so-called 'schizophrenia' has meant a lifetime of juggling the darkest emotions like tennis balls. My relationship with the illness has been a lifelong struggle... one of those things you are not meant to own up to.
It's a guaranteed conversation-stopper. Even within the disability community you are not guaranteed an empowering response. Reference to the illness can be a great way of losing acquaintances you are not particularly keen on in the first place.
The best you can expect is a conversation about how much better the medication is these days... as if the pharmaceutical companies were engaged in quality control of the neurological issues, heart problems and effects on the central nervous system which are endemic to all the anti-psychotics.
In an interview about definition and language on BBC Radio 4s Word of Mouth, Francesca Martinez asked "why not redefine people with schizophrenia as 'overly imaginative.'" In context she meant it as an understatement challenging the media's tendency to capitalise on the instant shock value to be gained from adding the 'schizo' word to a headline.
I saw a great ad at a multi-screen cinema recently... 30 seconds of blurry camera and dramatic sound introduce the oft-used cipher 'schizo' - leading you into thinking you're about to see a trailer for a violent horror movie. And then the image is cut with an ordinary family situation. A middle-aged man addresses the camera, telling the audience how he has lived with 'schizoprenia' for 12 years and has been able to live a full life with support from his family.
There needs to be more responsible open discussion of so-called 'schizophrenia'. As an illness it is all about irrational fear - as effect and as a cipher. Living with overly developed fear responses, is incredibly debilitating and hard work for those around you.
Societies mindless, sensation-grabbing responses don't help. Alison Wilde sent me an interesting analaysis of the nature of fear's companion, evil - in an article on a book titled On Evil by Terry Eagleton in The Independent.
It seems that we've never quite recovered from the boring name goodness and virtue made for themselves during the Victorian period. Despite the banality that accompanies evil; we have become obsessed by painting evil as romantic and glamorous.
During the Thatcher years we saw a reinvention of selfishness as 'altruism', in the desperate game of justifying greed. It set us up for a lot of fighting... and of course, we were the evil ones in demanding that support of our communities was a necessary part of finding strength to lead fulfilling lives.
But our community does continue to thrive... and will continue to thrive as the going gets tough...