Kate Cotton reviews Improbable Theatre's latest production - on tour to Birmingham, Bristol and London, until 31 July 2010
No idea - was exactly what Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence had when they decided to make a show together. So they went out on the streets and quizzed passers-by for their ideas instead.
They asked people to take a good look at them both – Lisa with a disability and Rachael without – and suggest what their show should be about.
At the Plymouth Drum Lisa and Rachael began by delivering some of these suggestions verbatim.
Hilarious, odd and off-the-wall replies included the “yoofs” suggesting increasingly dramatic storylines and the busy mums clumsily exploring the boundaries of what is “normal”.
Lisa and Rachael then set about performing some of these proposals.
They started with a gritty scene from EastEnders, a bit of observational stuff on life, and a Chas and Dave style sing-along - complete with Lisa in top hat accompanied by Rachael on the keyboard.
All of which was engagingly created by this great comedy double-act, who work extremely well together. And as the scenes unfolded so too did the revelations on the public’s attitudes towards Lisa’s disability. When it was suggested the show was to be funny, they imagined Lisa centre stage, while Rachael stayed in the background.
When the show was to be based on issues, Lisa was in the spotlight again. But when story lines were to become more dramatic, with stronger, more detailed plots, Lisa and her wheelchair stayed rooted to the side of the stage, whilst Rachael’s character dominated the centre.
These were clever and poignant ways to expose the prevailing view of Lisa as either an object of humour or someone with issues.
A view that was further expanded with her excellent rendition of the song ‘Cheeky Face’ - which included the quite shocking and thought-provoking verse on paedophile attraction towards her childlike frame.
Lisa expanded on this by explaining why people can tolerate her talking about weird sex – the assumption being that Lisa looks a bit freaky anyway, so therefore weird stuff is easier to adjust to than hearing it from a ‘normal lookin’ woman. Food for thought there.
Throughout the show Lisa was particularly eloquent when exploring her place in the world and the reaction her disability evokes in people – from fear and loathing to clumsy ignorance. And how it is that friends like Rachael - who give the shrug-shouldered response “I don’t care” to her disability - that stop her falling into a pit of despair.
The whole production flowed beautifully, complete with direction from Improbable’s Lee Simpson. Lisa and Rachael are very talented performers and put on a thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended show.
Both women have performed many times with Improbable and Lisa has TV credits including Psychoville and Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere.
No Idea developed out of a series of workshops during late 2008 and 2009. Following its performance as a work in progress at the Decibel Performing Arts Showcase in September 2009 the national tour was arranged.