26 November 2009
By Mandy Redvers-Rowe
It Hasn’t Happened Yet! is a comedy about comedy that asks just who and what a disabled comedian can actually laugh at these days? Mandy Redvers-Rowe caught Liz Carr's performance at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool on November 21 2009.
As a family woman, Saturday night normally means sitting down with my lovely husband and two daughters with packets of crisps, various dips and cups of tea to watch the X Factor. It is in fact the highlight of our week.
So, although I happily took this assignment offered by Disability Arts Online, I couldn’t help thinking, as I braved the rain, the cold, and stepped onto the local train: this had better be worth it.
So, was it? Okay, here we go.
It Hasn’t Happened Yet! is a one person show written and performed by Liz Carr. In the play, she plays the character of Alex Saunders, a wheelchair user who wants to make a career as a comedian.
The play takes us through a process of her training to be a comedian, her first attempts at performance and her progress through a national competition. In this, she becomes one of the last eight finalists and performs at the Royal Albert Hall.
On stage with her is a puppet of herself, also seated in a wheelchair, who regularly puts her down and makes her feel inadequate. Her inner voice. Behind her are various other puppets which represent people in her life, such as her girlfriend and her neighbour.
Their faces are slightly distorted and strange looking, possibly even ugly, and she refers to these characters as ‘them’. They talk too, with a clever use of voice-over.
These puppets offer the usual comments about being disabled, the sympathetic ones, the funny ones, the dismissive ones, the patronising ones, the encouraging well meaning ones… anyway, you get the picture.
And Alex Saunders is able to react to these comments fiercely, with humour. Her response to the word ‘special’ was: “Special is just short hand for shit!”
As Alex Saunders develops as a comedian, she is made to work out, to consider, what it is that makes someone funny. What is funny, and what isn’t? How do you become a professional funny person? What do you have to do personally? And also, what is funny about being disabled? How do audiences react to disability and jokes about disability? Is there room for a disabled comedian in a mainstream comedy programme? Can a disabled comedian ever make it big?
This was not a straight forward comedy then. Not the one person show I had expected. No. This was a drama. A stunning, brilliant one. Highly thought provoking and at times explosively funny. It directly questioned us, the audience, our motives, our reasons for laughing. Or for not laughing. It was uncomfortable, wicked, mesmerising.
So, well done, Liz. Excellent. I cannot recommend this enough. And if I get the opportunity to see this again, or anything else Liz Carr does from now on, Saturday night or not, you won’t be able to stop me. I’ll be enthusiastically leaping on that train, leaving my guide dog behind me... metaphorically speaking anyway.