Last night, for the first time in quite a while, I took to the stage. Well, more accurately I took to the floor in front of the stage because the stage wasn't accessible. I was doing a turn at the Lantern Arts Centre in South London. It is always nerve racking performing at small art centres because you are never sure if the cast is going to out number the audience. I'd invited some friends to perform a few sketches I have written over the years, so the audience had to number more than seven. I'm glad to report that it did. The show, a mix of sketches and anecdotes, went reassuringly well and I was particularly pleased with the way new material about the laugh-a-minute side of disability went down. After the show several people shared with me their own, or their family's, experiences of carers turning up at half past six to put them to bed or the bewildering and contradictory behaviour of social service departments. It was surprising the level of recognition there was amongst an audience who had not come specifically to see an act based on disability issues.
Working at the budget end of the performing arts arena does have its challenges. Polly was recently performing an extract from her one woman show Woman on a Mission at, let's call it a Ladies Twilight Guild meeting. Her comedy routine was prefixed with an announcement that one of the members had just died and that the soloist for the afternoon would not be coming because her husband had a bladder infection. Polly launched into her routine and despite the hostile glare of one disapproving lady all was going well. But then, as she started a monologue, she watched one of the audience slump forward and rest her head on a table. Not wanting to embarrass her by drawing attention to her Polly carried on. The ladies surrounding the slumped lady began to rearrange chairs and lay her down. Polly continued. Then the chairs were moved again and the lady was lowered on to the floor. Polly glanced across to the chairlady who smiled encouragingly and mouthed, “She's a diabetic. She's always doing this. I don't know why she bothers coming.” Faced with this implacable attitude Polly, with increasing concern for the lady who had now thoroughly upstaged her, reluctantly launched into a song while all the time more and more people fussed over the now unconscious woman. Polly glanced desperately at the chairlady who indicated she should carry on. He who pays the piper etc. Polly ploughed on. . . right up to the moment when the ambulance crew burst in. As she ground to a halt she turned pleadingly to the chairlady and said that she felt it was best to stop at this point. The chairlady stood and turned to Polly and said primly, “Yes, I think that would be best. Don't you?”