Disability Arts Online

> > > Brian Lobel presents Ball and Other Funny Stories About Cancer

2 April 2012

photo of storyteller, brian lobel, wearing a lycra top and whirling a hula-hoop

Brian Lobel, sportsman. Photo by John Reed

In 2001, at the age of 20, Brian Lobel was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Marian Cleary experiences a tale of cancer. Again.

The tiny Marlborough stage in Brighton expanded to accommodate the huge personality of Brian Lobel. The distinction between him ‘acting’ his story and ‘telling’ it was edged at in his intro to the three-act piece. Him at 20 (at diagnosis), him at a point in between, and him now. But to be honest, Lobel is a story teller first. And that is a compliment.

In that regard, he tells his tale of cancer with legs-wide-open honesty which screams vulnerability despite his artistic, witty and clever veneer of performance. In this way, he uses his own experience to frame his tales.  But in doing so, he got to one or two or more very real truths which expanded beyond his tale, and for me, expanded it all beyond the auditorium.

Sure, he talked about how cancer and its truly hideous treatments affect the person, but, quite aptly, since he delivers his tales on stage, he waved a big flag to show up how others see it all for good and bad and stupid. From the doctors to the nurses, to the potential lovers and the actual lovers, friends and families. And beyond.

So while Lobel cracks a joke about being ‘Lobel, No Ball’, I was thinking he was ‘Lobel global’. If you’ve had cancer, you’ll be laughing all the way through. If you haven’t, you’ll feel a bit weird. But if you are in the latter camp, take note. Shit, it could be you. And if instead it happens to a friend of yours before it gets you, no, they are not going to run a marathon and ‘beat it’ or ‘battle it’ or go on a ‘journey’ or do anything.

Just give them space to be very sick indeed and then do what you can to help them seek out a life thereafter, as they want it to be.

Lobel’s story presented here was dense and resonant. My favourite section was the hilarious retelling of the hula-hoop battle with an eight year old girl, at a cancer survival picnic. Lobel tells the story, twirling his hula hoop with verve and presence, whilst discussing the media image of the ideal cancer survivor, winning the Tour de France in a bid to be named a hero. From the side-splitting image of an ego in flight, attempting to come to terms with his predicament, we are brought down to earth and the reality that there are no heroes and there is no winning.

Should you be lucky enough that this show comes to your town, just know it’s bloody brilliant and go. But if that recommendation isn’t enough, at the end of the performance, you can go up on stage and fondle his ball if you volunteer quick enough. Just saying…

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BALL & Other Funny Stories about Cancer is playing at The Junction, Cambridge from 5-6 May as part of the Sampled Festival (#sampled @twitter).
Box Office: 01223 511 511
www.junction.co.uk

You will also be able to catch the show at DaDaFest 2012, Liverpool
between 13 July-2 September
www.dadahello.com/dadafest

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