The editor has an evening out
It's hard for me to credit now, but there was a time, only about three years ago, when I used to go the theatre virtually every week. Almost every Saturday, I would get onto a train and head off for destinations as far afield as Manchester, Leeds, or even Stoke-on-Trent. (Oh, the glamour...!)
For two years, I was a panellist for the Barclays' Theatre Management Awards and then, for the next two years, my friend Ann was. Which meant that I got four years' worth of free theatre tickets, and saw dozens and dozens of performances. Ee, them were t'days.....
These days, it's a major undertaking for me to get to a performance in Liverpool, let alone anywhere which would involve any travelling. But I was determined to see Thalidomide: A Musical, even though doing so would necessitate me taking the following day off work. Dude the chauffeur can generally be persuaded to come with me to see anything disability-related, as long as I give him sufficient notice and the date doesn't clash with anything Mrs Dude has planned for him. (He jokingly tends to talk about "the present Mrs Dude" but, of course, he's really absolutely devoted to her and to the Dude offspring. And he will no doubt inflict serious damage on me with his stick next week for publicly outing him as the epitome of a happily-married man.)
We were chuffed to bits that Becca and Turtle agreed to come with us. Turtle came all the way from Reading by train, and Becca drove over from Manchester. To the best of our knowledge, this constituted the largest gathering to date of Ouch! regulars, and Vaughan insisted that we record this "Ouch Meet" on camera so that he could enjoy the "nice ,warm feeling" which would come from seeing proof that Ouch is so much more than just a website. So, here we are mucking about in front of the set. Self and Dude at the back, obviously, and Turtle and Becca in the foreground. Becca had had badges produced in honour of Ouchvember and, if you look very carefully, you can see that we have even pinned one to the set. (Oh, I'm supposed to be pointing out at this juncture that that was categorically not suggested to us by the nice usher who agreed to take the picture. No. The fault for making pinholes in Mat's set lies entirely with us. Really.)
By the way, I am only too aware that red and purple shouldn't be worn together. In my defence, it was a bitterly cold night, and velvet seemed like a good idea, what with it being such a snuggly, warm fabric.
The Unity theatre really is the most crip-tastically accessible venue you could possibly imagine. No matter how complex your access requirements, no-one turns a hair. I can think of no other venue in the North West which would take at least a dozen wheelies, any number of wobblies and stickies, and three assistance dogs. That they do this at all is laudable. That they do it in such a tiny venue, and in an entirely pragmatic and wholly non-patronising manner, is fantastic. Not for nothing are they the Liverpool performance space of choice of the Graeae theatre company. (Incidentally, one of my moles tells me that the Graeae will be touring again next year. Should they perform anywhere near where you live, I can wholeheartedly recommend that you go to see them. They've never let me down yet.)
So, how was the show? Well, I thought it was hilarious. Might not have held quite the same appeal for non-disabled audience members but, frankly, as with Channel 4's "I'm Spasticus", I find myself struggling to care what non-disabled people might have thought of it. (Although I doubt Mat Fraser completely shares my insouciance about this.)
Mat is a versatile and talented performer - who has written a quite exceptional show - and Anna Winslet was a joy. Particularly, I can't help but suspect, to many of the male audience members...
(As an aside, I'm reminded at this point of the problems faced by friends and family of the cast who come along to offer support, only to find that a show is really awful. It's not always easy to gush with compliments, but you'd feel duty bound to find something good to say in that situation, what with turns having such fragile egos in the first place, and everything. The best example of this I've heard is one which was reported back to me by a friend who works as a wardrobe mistress. After being bored to tears through a particularly dire production, the best one poor desperate soul could manage to say with any degree of sincerity was, "Lovely floor cloth!")
My sincere thanks and big hugs go to my partners in set-vandalism crime on the night. Yes, even the Dude...
(Oh, and if Mat's reading this, we're really sorry about pinning the badge on your curtain. The nice usher made us do it.)