Representation is a big thing here at ET. We try to give everyone a chance to tell their story. We consider all types of shows, by all types of people, and at all types of venues. It’s important.
Our reviewers also spend lots of time at The Space. Tonight we meet David Grindley here, a long-time supporter of the venue. He’s certainly a man with a big personality. He has creatively participated in events, has acted and fundraised for them. He’s a part of the team. Now David has decided he wants to star in his very own show. The only difference between him and most other performers is that David has cerebral palsy: in a wheelchair with limited mobility, he finds it difficult to speak clearly. But that’s where the Space team comes in, doing what they do best, and helping him claim the representation he deserves.
The play begins with the audience arriving for the evening’s performance. Staff buzz around getting ready; it’s a picture of normality. When David arrives (dramatically!), he brings his alternative normality with him. He needs help getting around, and taking a drink; patience is required as people attune to the way he speaks. But his relationship with the staff means this is unproblematic. They take the time to communicate with him, helping him to express his wishes. If he wants to do the standard things that happen in a theatre – like be the star of a show – that can happen, because he is accepted as an individual, rather than only a ‘disabled person’. The venue is suitably equipped, so the team perform the show with him! Acceptance and enablement are made visible.
This is a joyfully silly story – not just about a man’s disability, but about his full life; who he is, what he does, and his relationships. There are jokes, a game show, a bit of audience participation, and many, many laughs. Beneath the humour, however, we learn of David’s problems and obstacles; we see the serious depths to which he has sometimes sunk and how he has overcome issues. He’s a person with ambitious dreams and aspirations, and the show demonstrates what can be achieved for someone often discounted, using collaboration, understanding and friendship. The Space makes a space for him.
Damian Cooper, Adam Hemming, Matthew Jameson and Bethany Sharp do a brilliant job of giving context to David’s story, delightfully multi-roling numerous characters to illustrate his life, and demonstrating how to treat someone with disabilities as a person. They are all hilarious, with impeccable timing and great sensitivity.
The deceptively clever script, written by Grindley in collaboration with Mike Carter and the Company, is almost site-specific, describing not merely David’s story, but the very nature of the venue itself. Like the organisation, it’s unapologetically theatrical, enabling and creative, embracing all people. Theirs is a team that listens to dreams like David’s (eventually) and then uses everything at their disposal to make them an epic reality: who’d have thought an entire ballet company could fit in there, and a wheelchair-bound man could fly? David’s story doesn’t have to be depressing – it can be gleefully daft, celebrating his abilities even whilst recognising his limitations, and enacting positive interactions with them.
Short of time this week, I watched David’s Play via their on-demand service; possibly an error on my part. This is a very human play that reduces distances between people and offers an alternative perspective of disability. In the theatre this production would have twice the power it does on my computer with its dodgy sound quality. David Grindley sparkles like a star, and the Space team twinkles just as brightly in their support of him.
Written by: David Grindley, Mike Carter and the Company
Directed by: Adam Hemming, Matthew Jameson & David Grindley
Design by: Constance Villemot
Lighting Design by: Andy Straw
Dramaturg by: Saffron Myers
Produced by: Bethany Sharp
David’s Play has completed its live run. It is now available on-demand until 15 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.