For Romina Puma, as for many people who engage with medical and social models of disability on a regular basis, the question of ‘proof’ remains nagging: assessments for disability benefits are increasingly scrutinised, certain resources are only available to patients with certain kinds of cancer, and there are forever competitions which praise the supersurvivor or supercrip while denigrating those who are unable to inspire with their narratives. Puma’s stand up comedy act guides the audience through her journey with a Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis, particularly as Puma fails to ‘fit in’ to the limited discourses on disability currently available. There are, thankfully, a number of great comics who look at disability and intersectional identities (Maysoon Zayid for example, who talks beautifully about being both disabled and Palestinian), and Puma covers some of the more challenging topics, such as sex and drugs (and how Viagra is seemingly a cure for MD-related exhaustion) which adds important examples of how these questions are negotiated not only by disabled people, but by those around them.
Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander’s book – Bodies in Commotion – as well as Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s Staring are great reads for further consideration on how many disabled individuals see themselves and how they are seen in public space. Puma’s work adds a unique and challenging dimension to this canon – bodies with degenerative illnesses are often not looked at in depth as they often engage more with medical lenses of disability than the more acceptable social model. As her doctor tells Puma, after revealing that there is no cure for Muscular Dystrophy and that the condition is degenerative: “If anything comes up, I’ll call you.” This rarely heard voice and perspective necessarily adds depth to a rich body of discourse on health, disability and dignity.
NOT DISABLED ENOUGH Romina Puma, Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, 7-30 August, FREE. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets.
Link to Romani Puma’s show:https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Not%20Disabled...%20Enough!%22
TED talk with Maysoon Zayid: https://www.ted.com/talks/maysoon_zayid_i_got_99_problems_palsy_is_just_one?language=en
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s work Staring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jALsDVW63wo