Georgie Morrell is a stand-up comedian, writer and blogger. She recently bore her soul with her stand-up show A Poke in the Eye, which played at the Brighton Fringe 24-26 May 2017. Review by Colin Hambrook.
A Poke In The Eye is part of a trend amongst younger disabled performers staging work that either draws on experience of impairment and/ or of becoming a disabled person. Georgie Morrell uses material developed through honing her craft as a standup comedian to challenge the tragic but brave stereotypes about blindness. A Poke In The Eye charts her journey from the age of 3 using humour to tell an everyday story of facing the hurdles of losing one’s sight.
Morrell doesn’t flinch from describing the horror of interminable operations and endless hours in Moorfields Eye Hospital waiting for surgery. With the support of her parents, the choice was between going ‘mad’ or finding ways to laugh at the hellish predicament she was in, through her early twenties, at a time when having fun was her highest priority.
Family politics looms large throughout, giving an insight into the knock-on impact of disability, with some hilarious consequences − especially in the form of her prankish brother. He believes the best thing he can do for his sister is to toughen her up with sick practical jokes, like hanging her bear Scruffy and leaving a suicide note.
There’s something about the deadpan quality of the way Morrell launches into a joke like “the darkest period was at night” − that reminded me of Laurence Clark’s understated delivery of similar lines, soaking up the laugh from her audience like litmus paper. Indeed, a double bill of Morrell and Clark would be comedy heaven, taking the piss out of the medical model and showing up the shit society throws at disabled people.
Morrell performed a beautifully delivered section satirising DWP assessments, and the desultory way in which the government and the media have manipulated attitudes towards disabled people in need of state support, as if claiming benefits were a crime. She seemed nervous about delivering politics to a festival audience, but opened a door with the material in this part of the show, and I for one, felt she could have gone a lot further.
The personal storytelling of a young woman finding ways of reinventing herself through the trauma of sight loss was compelling, thoughtfully written and honestly presented. Near the beginning of the show Morrell sets out to dispel any sentimental notion of disabled people as ‘worthy’, which is great. However, this develops into a fixation on proving to the audience what a bitch she is, which jarred.
At the point Morrell extended wilful egoism into some audience interaction the energy fell flat. I could imagine at some roaring comedy night, some ad lib and banter could really grow from staging audience participation, but the Studio 3 performance space in The Warren wasn’t designed for it. In fact, performing inside a large metal container on the hottest day of the year… and with a bunch of guerrilla seagulls intent on pounding their way through the impregnable ceiling was not the easiest of performance opportunities. She held it together, valiant in the face of adversity, but the she-devil routine didn’t work and it felt like Morrell could really have done with the support of a director to help her lift the show and give it a bit more tone and colour.
Overall I was deeply impressed by Georgie Morrell’s verve and candour. She’s a refreshing young performer and I greatly look forward to seeing her tread the boards of disability arts gigs in future.
She is an artist prime for support from Unlimited or the Independent Fringe platform, if it gets revived. All power to her elbow for resisting that poke in the eye.