Thursday, May 13, 2010

Such Tweet Sorrow - applause

Previous posts:
Such Tweet Sorrow posted on April 12th, 2010.
Indescribable posted on April 18th, 2010.

For never was a tale of more woe,
Than this of Juliet, and her Romeo.

That may be true. But this afternoon, when I told Steve that the five-week Twitter production of Such Tweet Sorrow was finally over, and he jokingly asked "was there a happy ending?" the answer, strangely, was Yes.

I mean, okay, four out of six characters died. But the difference in the medium changed the place where the play ended and therefore the feel of the ending.

If you see Romeo and Juliet on stage or film, you barely have time to wipe your eyes at the end of the suicide scene before you are presented with the Prince's summing-up and a curtain call.

In real-time, however... Juliet drank the sleeping draught on Tuesday night. Romeo found her early on Wednesday morning. For about an hour he agonised over what to do... then his not-so-quick drugs took another hour to work, and all we knew was silence until Juliet awoke. She took half an hour to assess the situation, sent out a heartfelt goodbye to her sister (Jess, the "nurse"), and then it was silence again until Jess found the bodies. Those long silences really took an emotional toll on the involved audience (affectionately known as #teamchorus).

Too upset to be delivering a neat and tidy epilogue, Jess spent the afternoon and evening railing at her father and portraying despair in messages that were chillingly close to those sent by the young lovers before their deaths... followed by... silence. Jess being an altered character, no one knew whether she would be likely to do something drastic. I went to bed on Wednesday night half expecting to hear news that she, too, had killed herself - the relief on Thursday morning when she tweeted complaining of a hangover was immense. Especially since Jess was one of the more likeable characters.

Over the course of the morning, Jess (and the audience!) got to grips with the facts of the deaths with the benefit of a night's sleep. The summing-up was then delivered as dialogue between Jess and the Friar and although there was a sense of loss, there was also a sense of survival and new beginnings. It felt like a positive ending.

Apparently there is a curtain call tomorrow, which I am very much looking forward to. If nothing else, I need to tell Charlotte Wakefield that it's just Juliet I couldn't stand, and that since Juliet is now dead, I no longer bear her any ill will. I might have *ahem* been a little bit aggressive about my dislike of Juliet and I really hope the actress doesn't take it personally.

Was this an accessible performance? For me, yes. Certainly it saved me from having to deal with practical access issues in and around Stratford in order to experience an RSC production (although I still want to do that one day). And the beauty of Twitter is that if you need to sleep or medicate or stretch or rest or throw up, all of the play is right there waiting for you to catch up on when you come back. However, there were a lot of tweets, and I know several people had to drop out on that basis - in many ways it is easier to devote two hours of undivided attention to the play in isolation, than to immerse yourself into a production that has more in common with a role-playing game than a theatre visit.

I will definitely want to be involved in another Twitter-Shakespeare project. A large part of that is because it is a case of "being involved" rather than merely "watching". Accessible interactive theatre in your own home, where you respond to the characters and the characters respond to you - it beats TV.

All that remains is to stand and applaud:

The Cast
@romeo_mo - Romeo Montague - James Barrett
@julietcap16 - Juliet Capulet - Charlotte Wakefield
@LaurenceFriar - Laurence Friar - Geoffrey Newland
@mercuteio - Mercutio - Ben Ashton
@tybalt_cap - Tybalt Capulet - Mark Holgate
@Jess_nurse - Jess "Nurse" Capulet - Lu Corfield

Charles Hunter

Roxana Silbert

Bethan Marlow
Tim Wright

All at Such_Tweet, The RSC, Mudlark, 4ip, and Screen WM.

My fellow #suchtweet Groundlings including #teamchorus and #mercutiogroupies

and the mysterious @jago_klepto...

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Sitting in Steve's study this morning, sharing the first cuppa of the day, catching up on the overnight Twitter feed but discussing nothing more weighty than whether we had a good night's sleep.

A thought occurs to me, I raise my head and start with "Steve?" but before he can respond, a scythe of pain slices through me, somewhere behind my eyeballs. I can't see, the world spins, I want to lie down but I can't work out which direction that might be.


There's ways and ways of saying Stop. Steve knows me well enough by now to understand what this one means. He doesn't ask questions, he doesn't move, he doesn't fuss, he just stops and waits. If we are lucky, I'm going to catch myself and slowly work back up to speed. If we're not lucky, he'd better be ready to catch me and make sure I don't knock the cups over.

Time passes, but we are a tableau, a freeze-frame, suspended animation. With an effort I breathe in, and then back out. A brightly-coloured wriggling skewer of pain dances in the cavern of my skull which suddenly seems to be much larger than any part of my body has a right to be. I breathe again and my outstretched hands identify the edge of the guest bed, which my upper body gratefully sinks onto. The duvet fills my eye sockets with calm, refreshing darkness, and the vicious little spears of pain begin to dissipate into a cloud which is bigger, but more muted and easier to cope with.

Slowly, the passage of time reasserts itself. Gently, Steve begins to move and both of us make a conscious effort to relax again.

Soon we start to giggle about the unfairness of him being effectively told to shut up before he's had a chance to say anything. The tea has not quite gone cold. I will have to be cautious today, avoid pushing my limits, but as long as I'm careful, I should have the spoons to manage everything essential.

Life goes on.

One of the 'essentials' today was to go and vote, with the help of my PA. I'm pleased to report that it was an accessible experience - we were able to park at the polling station, wheel in without difficulty, there was a wheelchair-height polling booth available, and I was politely advised that if I had difficulty reaching to post my paper into the ballot box, I could ask one of the officials to do it for me. I didn't - but the offer was appreciated.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

BADD 2010 Roundup

As usual, here are my five favourite posts from BADD 2010 so far. Bear in mind that once again the total contributions are well into three figures and I have not managed to read all of them. I may have missed the best post ever.

First up, we have Angelikitten's post about Voluntary Accommodations, exploring the positive difference accommodating attitudes in the workplace can make - and thus highlighting what a barrier negative attitudes become to disabled people who are willing and able to work if they could only rely on such adjustments being made.

Heather at OhWheely posted about those people who don't seem to realise how much more difficult they are making our lives by refusing to do their jobs properly. She also raises the impossibility of fighting every battle and the balancing act of trying to say "this is unacceptable" without sounding like a whinger.

Stephen at Single Lens Reflections brought some much needed comedy relief - and a valid point about two-way assumptions - with his wonderful post Flying the Red Flag of Understanding.

More Than A Mascot is a post from Bethany about the importance of proper, meaningful inclusion rather than sidelining and patronisation of disabled kids in mainstream schools.

And finally, Assiya at For A Fairer Today wrote Submissiveness, a post about having to be cautious because help and acceptance can be very conditional. This one really twanged for me - I am constantly conscious of not wanting to challenge or 'bother' doctors, social workers, etc, for fear that they will withdraw what assistance they do give.

Till next year...

It's not Bridezilla to want access

Written for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010.

Regular readers will know that my life at present divides into two main areas:

  1. Planning my forthcoming wedding.

  2. Running and developing my business.

While working on these projects, I have again and again encountered two important truisms:

  1. "Wedding" translates roughly as "add another zero" - there's a lot of money involved.

  2. Business is about persuading other people to give you money.

Everyone happy with these starting principles? Then let's move along to the disability angle.

I am a part-time wheelchair user. At my wedding, I will be walking down the aisle (I'm hoping to get one of these gorgeous walking sticks for that bit), but I will be using a wheelchair right up to the ceremony room door and for most of the reception. There's just no other way that I will last the whole day and yet still be able to participate.

This adds a whole range of access requirements. At other people's weddings, I'm prepared to shuffle in side entrances, withdraw to the car for a nap, sit on the floor or crawl up steps if necessary. On occasion I've attended for just the ceremony or just the reception depending on the preference of the happy couple. But damned if I'll be doing that at my own wedding. It's not Bridezilla-ish to put the needs, wishes and comfort of the bride and groom directly at the top of the priority tree.

And I swear, it's like watching a bathtub emptying as the possibilities dwindle to almost nothing on the simple query "can I get in?"

Venue is the obvious one. As a small business owner, I have been repeatedly made aware that I have a duty to consider how disabled people might access my products or services, and what adjustments I might put in place to improve access, even if it is not reasonable for me to make those adjustments at this stage. Make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to give you as much money as possible.

Some places are honest enough to simply declare on their websites that "owing to the historic nature of the property" they'd like wheelchair users to just f--k off. They don't phrase it quite like that but it's the message loud and clear - they're not allowed to say "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish" any more but the cripples can Keep Out. Worse than that, though, are the ones who haven't given it any thought at all. And worse still was the hotel who claimed they had great access throughout, invited me to visit, and then we found out that the ceremony and reception rooms had decent access but there was no access to any of the other facilities included in their wedding package, such as the Bridal Suite or any other 'deluxe' room, the swimming pool and spa, the gardens, the bar, the restaurant...

I could go on for days about the barriers I've encountered, but suffice to say that based on physical access alone, from the 50 or so local venues in a range of styles and prices that a non-disabled bride could choose from, my pool of choice was down to about 10 (call it 8 because I am NOT getting married at a Holiday Inn) and it took a couple of hours of emails and phone calls plus several of my precious Social Care hours to find out that much.

I should not have to work so hard to try and spend a Wedding amount of money.

Wedding dresses are the same story. I need to be able to stand up and sit down in my dress (or possibly trousers, might be easier, not sure, but we'll stick with saying "dress" for now) and still look bridal. So the chair is definitely going to have to come in with me for dress shopping and fittings.

Another half hour or so on the phone reveals that there are NO wheelchair-accessible bridal shops in Leamington.

There's ONE in Warwick, the next town along. Possibly two - the person I spoke to told me something something side entrance should be wide enough because they're sure they've had "wheelchair people" in the shop before. The others were basically trying to persuade me that I should be prepared to crawl up and down the stairs (remember these people knew nothing about why or how I use a wheelchair) and that maybe I could get a friend to carry the wheelchair up the stairs for me.

I wonder, do they propose that non-disabled brides should attempt to do an assault course with a bridesmaid on hand to do weightlifting, just for the privilege of handing over a Wedding amount of money?

One even told me "well you have to make the effort." Excuse me, no, I don't. I am the customer. You are the business. You have to make the effort to get my money by making it as pleasant and easy as possible for me to hand it over. Not by treating me as an inconvenience and expecting me to work for it.

Business owners have a duty to consider how disabled people might access their products and services, and what adjustments might improve access. Failing to do that, particularly in the wedding industry, means failing to understand those two simple starting points - that "wedding" means "add another zero" and that business is about persuading other people to give you money.

I am enjoying the wedding planning; I have found a venue that meets our needs and I'm sure I'll find a dress as well, one way or another. But I certainly don't feel that my experiences are matching those of a non-disabled bride.