Simon Ward reviews It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure at Soho Theatre
Following a brief run as part of The Vaults Festival in February, this show comes to the Soho Theatre as a slick, well-worked production. Flawbored are a disability-led company, made up of the night’s performers, Samuel Brewer, Aarian Mehrabani and Chloe Palmer, and they are determined to prove the truth of their motto that ‘access is easy, if you care’. If that sounds worthy, even dull, this show is anything but. It manages the seemingly impossible feat of being hilariously funny, thought-provoking and cringemaking all at the same time. It lampoons what might be called the accessibility/inclusivity industry while also showing how important a genuine effort to include everyone is, as well as how easily it can fail.
The piece is written by the company, based on a concept by Brewer. We know we are in for an inclusive evening right from the start because of the huge captioning screen behind the stage. There is also yellow and black tape all around the stage area, which we later learn is to help Brewer and Mehrabani, who are blind, navigate the set. And each cast member provides an audio description of their own appearance, faithfully recorded by the caption screen, so everyone is catered for. Or so we think, until we find that some members of the audience may have their own specific accessibility needs…
Audio description with attitude is a real hallmark of the show. And the undervalued work of the unseen captioner will be undervalued no more, as he takes up whole scenes on his own. Of course, when there are just captions on stage, a brave volunteer in the audience has to read the increasingly hilarious text, earning a well-deserved round of applause. This is also typical of the show, in that it promotes a warmth and a sense of inclusivity – the audience are often the targets of the comedy, but the assumption is that we are trying. We know that the ableist guilt for absolutely everything as recounted by Chloe is comically absurd, but we also know that guilt is irrelevant – we need to take more positive action.
At its core is a rollicking, no-holds-barred satire involving a PR company’s attempts to fight back against a charge of ‘ableism’. Disabled talent managerTim (Brewer) sees an opportunity and persuades influencer Ross (Mehrabani), brown, gay and blind, to work with him to make blindness sexy. Their strategy is all too successful and the inevitable consequence is played out in a horrific audio described video clip. The tone shift is stark but brilliantly handled – the fact that it is audio-described rather than visual makes it all the more powerful. The debate that ensues about being blind is never resolved, perhaps it can’t be. The evening ends on an inclusive note again, with tattoos and tweets at the ready to ensure that the show gets the four star minimum reviews that it so richly deserves.
It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure runs until Saturday 13 May 2023, Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE
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