I am in bits. Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah have taken me apart by subtle means, by invisible means, with fast-moving fingers, and I am discombobulated by unnamed emotions after their performance of Can I Start Again Please?
MacLaine and Nadarajah’s dissection and examination of language, meaning and intent is so elegant that even though I knew the themes of the piece were going to be hard; abuse, survival, silence; the slow burn build still took me by surprise when I found myself crying and speechless. An amazing piece of theatre from two gifted performers.
Their synchronised movements and expressions are both visually arresting and moving, and recall how lonely it can be to try and express individual experience, even with shared language and understanding. Go and see it whenever you can!
Part of the emotional shot to the heart surely came from my having spent the preceding morning getting revved up at Fringe Central, listening to Jess Thom, Richard Butchins and Jo Verrant speak dynamically about ‘Disability: A Creative Advantage’. A great hour of discussion, frankness and calls to action, from both the new and older guard of disability arts.
It is notable throughout my whole Fringe experience that public/panelled discussion of disability arts is vehemently positive and progressive, whereas the experiences reflected in performance and art are more diverse, touching on sadness, frustration and isolation too, much of it specific to experience of impairment or disability.
Art and debate serve different functions, yes, but ultimately do we not want a joined-up sector where critique and creation equally reflect life? Can we rally ourselves to surf the wave of public interest in disability arts, whilst also sharing truth about anger and injustice? Are we setting up arty super-crip expectations, or is there simply still an ocean of patronising attitudes to swim through, best done so with a clear ‘fuck you/piss on pity’?
Being an artist is hard; one of the most challenging and under-supported roles a person can take on, and it is up to every individual artist how they position themselves in the public eye, and the right of every panellist and participant to share their stories however they choose.
Nobody wants to be inspiration porn, or be to spoken down to, looked over or left out, but the juggling act between funding, PR, touring, creative expression, practicalities and logistics and the existential nature of the profession should be more openly discussed. This shit is TOUGH!
There is everything to play for right now, even with the budget looming and the arts’ delicate neck first on the chopping block, and I am interested to see how this phase pans out; with the British Council, Arts Council and some mainstream media starting to wake up to the value of diversity and equality it’s a good time to figure out our narratives and our place in history as whole, flawed, individual people with as much to learn as to teach.