Presented by Not Your Circus Dog Collective and Access All Areas, the devised cabaret Not F**kin’ Sorry confronts discrimination in a provocative and seductive way. It has been collaboratively devised by the Not Your Circus Dog! collective and is directed by University of East London academic Liselle Terret, who also identifies as neuro-diverse. Review by Natasha Sutton-WIlliams
Not F**kin’ Sorry fearlessly lays bare the sexuality, desire and fantasies of disabled people. Self described as a ‘shameless sexy punk crip cabaret’ this quartet of indisputably fearless performers use intimate verbatim accounts, ferocious dance routines and inclusive audience participation to illustrate not only are they not “fuckin’ sorry” they are fuckin’ jubilant about their overt sexualities and personal desires.
The show begins with a wild dance routine, which merges into a direct address with the audience, asking them which performer they would like to keep alive. Due to government disability cuts and continued social injustices, they can’t all be kept on this planet. When a performer has entertained an audience member, they are invited to throw Waitrose green counters into that performer’s bucket. The performer with the most counters gets to stay alive. This grimly dark concept underpinned every moment in the show. Each time a counter was thrown, it underscored the idea that our personal behaviour has a direct effect on social injustice, and the insidious unspoken notion that some lives are worth more than others.
Through an inspired Countdown satire, the show tackles disability hate and mate crime, detailing three descriptions of recent victims’ experiences. As the game show host, performer Emma Selwyn read out an extensive list of disabled people who have been victimised by hate and mate crime in 2019.
Each performer was charming and deeply candid in their own way. The rambunctious DJ (aka Housni Hassan) performed a heartrending solo piece of choreographic mime. Illustrating his optimism for life, he jives carefree down the street. However, his dance is increasingly interrupted by physical attacks from unseen abusers, pummelling his body as he tries to keep upbeat and move on. The piece finishes with DJ lying on the floor, beaten within an inch of his life.
In contrast to the rawness of DJ’s solo, Steph Newman performs a scintillating striptease, with the audience whooping, clapping and stomping their feet as she removes each item of clothing.
Overtly sexual, with a Cheshire cat grin and a twinkle in his eye, Adam Smith is a delight. A particular highlight was Smith stripping down to his underwear, joyously declaiming, “I love my body, and I’m not going to change it for anybody!”
Wearing only a bra and pants, Selwyn gives the final sexual confession of the evening. Inspired by musician Trent Reznor, who hangs suspended by ropes in a Nine Inch Nails music video, she wants to be tied up, but with the addition of a ball gag. Selwyn describes her craving for men and women to caress every part of her body as she hovers, dangling in the air.
These four performers are some of the bravest, boldest, most candid and risk-taking on the contemporary London theatre scene. Due credit must also be given to director Liselle Terret and dramaturg Lou Cope for their meticulous work, curating highly emotive and genuinely provocative content from the devising process, and balancing the show’s sorrows and joys with such finesse.
The message of Not F**kin Sorry is crystalline, and cannot be put better than when Selwyn declares, “We are sick of being your circus dogs. Everything you think we can’t do, we can. And we are not fucking sorry.”
Not F**kin’ Sorry was performed at Soho Theatre 29 October – 1 November 2019. For more information, please see the website: https://sohotheatre.com/shows/not-fkin-sorry/
If you or someone you know has been a victim of disability hate crime, United Response’s free resource can provides tools to recognise the signs and know how to report it.