Abnormally Funny People have a run of gigs at the Soho Theatre Downstairs. Richard Downes went along on 24 April to find himself waking up to what comedy by disabled people is all about.
The order of play was Steve Best, Liam O'Carroll, Kiruna Stammell, Dawn Willis, Lee Ridley and Steve Day. Well done to the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of Ab Fun for their first house full sign.
They celebrated with diversity from blindness, restricted growth, mental health, speechlessness, deafness and Steve Best - the token guy we should perhaps leave out through a sad absence of impairment. We happily patronised him, letting him believe he was in charge by making him compere - a role he rose to in spite of laughter from the front. Talking up Steve's achievements, I relished his inspired lunacy, complete idiocy, but it's not that, so I'll settle for calling his skit what it was - magic and clowning. Well done Steve. Come back soon.
Between Steve's comic drivel ("yes it was… no it wasn't… could have been"), we celebrated the everyday experience of normal impairments. Liam O'Carroll defines the gap between our dreams and the expectations of non-disabled people and rubs it in, boasting about insight and prophetic powers. While we take acute super senses for granted, denying they are compensations for our equalising losses, it really is not their fault that they ask absurd questions. They do not have our experience and can only wish to be like us. Hence lies about "unsighted goalies, lame football teams." See Steve Best. Imagine what can be achieved if we continue to be kind.
Non-disabled people are sex loving little devils who breed regardless of costs to the country. It’s timely for Kiruna Stamell to drop by to educate them. Phallic symbolism, size of apparatus, dwarf-festish porn and acceptance that we, like them, could be degraded if we're not careful. Compassionate Kiruna shows sympathy to unfortunates with the debilitating social stigma of wearing glasses. It is phenomenal that she must remain direct in handing out good sensible advice. Why won't they get it? Why should we be expected to pay for this genetic condition? We must continually tell them what they must hear. At least Steve Best got it and bought a plastic doll.
Debutant Dawn Willis is a free thinker with helpful voices to talk with. Coming down from "grandiose" positions where she could "disassociate" with the frothing crowd, Dawn reflects sympathetically on what it's like to be normal. She commands the stage, gets over talking to a crowd in short time, taking us on thought provoking journeys from home to jail to Warner Bros. She needs to learn from the token bloke surreptitiously hiding his props in the belief we don't know where they are. Bless.
Getting vibed up by the media is engaging Lost Voice Guy, Lee Ridley. He reflects gently on the word 'special' demonstrating skills, techniques and powers we hold over non-disabled people. His mastery of assistive technology can only lead to one conclusion. A christmas number one war with Simon Cowell. We can do it. Join Lee Ridley. Help Make Pop Stars Rich Now. Just a few pence could help a poor little soulster put bubbles in his bath. One thing though, Lee. See how Kiruna and Dawn own the stage. Come forward a bit. Let’s see more of you.
Steve Day closes the show. Here is the one who has it all. A father, a life partner, sons and daughters, a keen worker who went to college to study philosophy, who brings observations, juxtapositions, a cheeky fondness for subverting sign through friendly imitations of the non-disabled, joyousness from involvement in the profession and kindness and approval for his peers. He proves that sometimes we must be cruel to be kind. Here's why. I'm attending with a friend who set up a theatre company that uses sign. At their first show a non-disabled woman left her seat saying her daughter didn't need to be around this sort of thing. I'm sorry Mrs but you do. If you are not prepared to be included in our society on our terms, then you are missing out on the glories of Ab Fun. We did it for Steve Best. We can do it for you.
Abnormally Funny People plays at Soho Theatre Downstairs, London. On 21 May the line-up features Huw Thomas, Caro Sparks, Gareth Berliner, Liz Carr and on 18 June you can see Tanyalee Davis, Bennet Aarron, Liz Carr, Liam O’Carroll on. Go to the Soho Theate website for further details including some helpful access info.