David Longworth leads us in a minute’s silence at the end of Reservation. It is a powerful moment, and a testimonial to the unequal treatment of vulnerable people throughout the pandemic: to remember those who have passed away or can’t be with us.
In the silence, I think of Rory Kinnear’s article in the Guardian: ‘My sister died of coronavirus. She needed care, but her life was not disposable’. As a sibling of a brother with cerebral palsy, I have seen the effects of isolation, lack of resources and care, and discrimination has had on my family first-hand. The treatment of disability and chronic illness in this country over the last 20 years, fills me with rage. Put starkly, people have died, and will continue to die due to the UK government. Within the last two years, it has felt like the protection of vulnerable people has been, for the want of a better word, SHIT – pushed lower in the agenda to prioritise the economy, or those who don’t want to wear a mask. But this treatment goes much further than that, with systemic cuts over the last ten years criminally reducing access to local services and benefits. It is this personal context that makes Reservation an important watch for me.
Despite the emotional introduction to this review – one thing Reservation is, is full of JOY. The piece plays on the intricacies, brilliance, stereotypes, and frustrations of having a disability or being neurodivergent – and it is full of revolutionary rage and boundless joy in equal measure. Colourfully clad in EPIC dungarees and party hats, the cast (all young disabled, Deaf and neurodivergent creatives), take us on a deeply personal exploration of their experiences. Highlights included for me, Emily Bold and Rhiannon May singing/BSL signing two original songs called 'Piss on Pity' and 'The Stim Dance'. While they were both rocking out, the rest of the cast danced and threw confetti and glitter everywhere, filling the stage with light. It felt like watching a punk, power revolution – they were having so much fun, sticking it to the government and to the PIP process... their joy was infectious. I really enjoyed the individual testimonies which filtered throughout the piece. Written by the performers, these were a raw and honest move away from tropes about disabled lives – incredibly funny and moving in equal measure.
If I talk too much more, I will spoil it for you. It is a brilliant celebration of these young creatives – who as Nickie Miles-Wildin (DaDaFest's joint Artistic Director and CEO) reminds us, celebrate Disability as a creative opportunity. What’s more, audio description, BSL and captioning is embedded into the performance, which is ACE to see. Creative, joyful representation onstage. ACE.