Nils Bergstrand was the first disabled person to graduate from the musical theatre course at London's Royal Academy of Music. He auditioned after a passion for singing revealed itself through therapeutic exercises in acknowledging positive responses to the world, undertaken to cope with the post-traumatic stress of losing his leg. This passion became the key that unlocked a new life direction, providing a counterbalance to the sense of loss that comes after an amputation.
In The One Legged Man Show Bergstrand performs his own songs at an electric piano, talks to us directly, and reads from a personal account of his experience. Whilst on holiday in Thailand in 2005, he was hit in the leg by a ricocheting bullet, fired accidentally by a security guard in a scuffle with another man. The bullet entered his calf, exited through the knee, and took out 6 inches of artery. We hear his story from the moments before the event, through the sensations of being shot, a near death experience, medical treatment in both Thailand and Sweden, and the psychological and social impact of his trauma, until he arrives at his current point in life. We see him in his wheelchair and later, partially obscured, he attaches his prosthetic limb and completes his story standing and walking.
A therapist once told Bergstrand that talking about his injury and its effects can be a healing thing, which is one reason the show exists. Another, though, is to provide an insight into the treatment issues and coping mechanisms that have led the man to where he is today and, perhaps, to provide solace to others who have their own relatable experiences. 'A question is also raised via the show title - and, at one point, is spoken out loud by Bergstrand, almost in passing - that suggests a wider discourse around voyeurism and inspiration porn: why have you paid money to see a “one-legged man”?
A song in which Bergstrand body-shames others (based upon his particular wheelchair bound viewing angle of people's fashion choices) seems at odds with a show that is, at one level, about coming to terms with your own physical existence. Is it ironic that a man who experiences insensitive reactions, to a body that doesn't conform to societal ideals, does the same to others? The major message of the piece, however, is about choosing to go on living and find new things to live for. The closing rendition of I Am What I Am leaves us with an affirmation of acceptance and celebration of life. (KK)
The One Legged Man Show is on at 15:15 at Spotlites until August 28th. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Hearing Loop, Relaxed Performance - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/one-legged-man-show
A 'Top 25 Disability Pride Songs': http://www.instituteondisabilityculture.org/manifesto/-my-top-25-disability-pride-songs
Disability Arts Online resource: http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/home
'A Study of Psychological Correlates After Amputation': https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257195959_A_Study_of_Psychological_Correlates_after_Amputation
Comparative study of health systems around the world: http://www.who.int/whr/2000/en/
Article on 'Inspiration Porn': http://disabilitytodaynetwork.com/dtn-blog/2794-disability-as-inspiration-porn
'What Does Music Express? Basic Emotions and Beyond': http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764399/
This show was made with support from the Douglas Bader Foundation: http://www.douglasbaderfoundation.com
Diagnosis of Colin Leggo's Leggoland in 2015, on his positive perspective on his amputeeism: http://thesickofthefringe.com/diagnoses2015/2015/8/22/leggoland-colin-leggo