This puppetry and physical theatre piece looks at the life of Ted, a man with Motor Neuron Disease, who begins to come to terms with life in a changed body. Just as Romina Puma discusses in Not Disabled…Enough, there is a great tension between medical models of understanding disability and social models, and neither of which are fully comfortable as homes for people with degenerative chronic conditions. Ted’s story embraces the See the Person, Not the Disability kind of campaign which encourages people to look beyond disability to see ashared humanity. Such a campaign or narrative, however, is not universally embraced, with disability activists saying that one must embrace the whole in order to make people feel fully human and empowered as members of society. What is wrong with seeing the wheelchair? What is wrong with a change in health? Of course debilitating, currently-uncurable illnesses must be researched and supported, medically, with the same vigorousness as society treats things like cancer, but they must also be charted as something which happens to the body which has implications on health care, social services and accessibility.
Puppets and puppetry have often been used as metaphors for individuals or societies being controlled, and such a metaphor is uncomfortable when used with a body which transitions between nondisabled and disabled. The body being carried around and cared for – while also being silent – does not seemingly project the most empowered of stances. But would a performer without MND do justice to the work? Such controversies swirled with the casting of Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, and the inclusion of more disabled performers in both disabled and non-disabled roles is a conversation happening throughout the UK. Disability activists are fighting for greater representation in their stories not only because they want empowered stories to be told, but because they want the political implications of these works to be fully realised: when one creates a character with Motor Neuron Disease and asks an audience (who will have their own relationship with MND, illness and disability) to engage in their story, one must also fight against the cuts to the Independent Living Fund and the Access to Work scheme, one must demand not only medical research but social equality, and one must engage with a politics which embraces humanity, regardless of, but not ignoring of, disability.
CELL, Smoking Apples & Dogfish, 7-30 August, Underbelly Cowgate. Venue is not wheelchair accessible, hearing loop available. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/cell
More on Smoking Apples: http://smokingapplestheatre.com/
More on Dogfish: http://www.dogfishtheatre.com/
On Romina Puma: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/not-disabled-enough
On Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything and Disability: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/01/20/the_theory_of_everything_and_disability_why_eddie_redmayne_shouldn_t_get.html
A Response to “See the Body, Not the Disability”: http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/the-problem-with-person-first-language/
Touretteshero and changes to Access to Work scheme: http://www.touretteshero.com/2015/01/24/access-to-tears/