In the chilly Richmond Theatrette last Saturday night, I was waiting in the lobby after purchasing my ticket to the opening night of this Melbourne Fringe Festival show when a door was opened and the notes of a guitar began to sing out, along with the voice of the guitarist himself. Ross Cottee greeted the guests of the first show of ‘Quippings Disability Unleashed’ with his unique and fearless performance as he walked through the people watching on, waiting to enter the theatre. This first segment of the night was given a well-deserved applause before Ross handed over to the one and only Emma J Hawkins, who introduced herself as the night’s MC. Emma’s excitement was infectious and her superb MCing skills were exhilarating as she introduced the show before ushering us inside.
Our instructions as we entered the theatre were not to take a seat, but to stand around the chairs in a circle facing out. Emma invited the audience to see, but also to be seen while we met the performers for the night. In the minutes that followed, the members of the audience were examined and scrutinized by the performers as they walked around us. The minutes ticked by in discomfort as they demonstrated what it felt like to be stared at and judged based on what someone walking past you could see. After this, we took our seats and I knew we were in for a memorable night of performances.
Emma J Hawkins segmented the rest of the night by announcing at intervals contestants for the ‘Most Inspiring Person with a Disability Award’, each of whom was portrayed by the hilarious and satirical Kath Duncan. This send-up of people who work in the disability sector sent a very clear message: do not pigeon-hole the people you claim to be trying to support, because all that is, is degrading.
The night continued with a dance routine to ‘I Am What I Am’ by Emma J Hawkins wearing a unicorn head, which was funny, inspiring, and unnerving (that unicorn head stared unblinkingly into my soul) all in one. This was followed by a seductive piece of spoken word poetry, in which Jax Jackie Brown beguiled us with the pleasures and pains of having piercings on some of the most sensitive parts of your body—and yes, the costume is meant to be exactly what you thought it looked like when you first saw it. Budding comedienne Natalie Corrigan gave a universally relatable reminder of the interpretive dance we’ve all done with the toilet bowl, before leading on to tell us what really gives her the shits about people who campaign for disability awareness in all the wrong and undignifying ways.
As we get to the later half of the show, the content gets heavier. The lights dimmed for the next part of the show. The audience was graced with an amazing routine by trained dancer Sonia Marcon, defying the limitations of multiple sclerosis, which was accompanied by a voiceover describing the hardships of everyday life for people living with a disability. Carly Findlay then recited a letter to her potential future child in which she challenged old ideas about social acceptance of disability, including both her fears and her hopes, and her support for a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. The final blow is delivered by Assistant Director Jarrod Marrinon, who left us with a eulogy to his late girlfriend, disability activist Madeleine Sobb, who passed away earlier in the year. Jarrod’s eulogy was both heartbreaking and heart-warming, filled with humour and windows into his relationship with Madeleine. And last but not least, to wrap up the show, the beautiful Sugarcane (Daye Han) shared her equally lovely voice with the uplifting ‘First Song’ which she wrote on request for Jarrod and a friend Isaac Ishadi, and originally performed by their band ‘Chelsie and the Sea Dragon’.
And suddenly the night was over. So many performances with such profound impacts on the audience had passed in waves of hilarity, sadness, and delight. Quippings Disability Unleashed is a fantastic set of performances which prove how strong, inspiring and influential an individual can be despite whatever hardships life may throw at them. Don’t miss out on seeing their shows on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September at the Richmond Theatrette.
Follow the link to their Facebook page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/104849473202271/
Review by Bonnee Crawford.