Emotional, Cripple

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

18/05/2011 - 21/05/2011

NZ International Comedy Festival 2011

Production Details

The blackly comic tale of a wheelchairbound racist and the woman who believes she can “fix” him. That is, once the Stockholm Syndrome kicks in.  

Claire and James have been on a few dates so far and things are going okay. However, when Claire discovers that James is a diehard white supremacist, of course she has to break up with him. When she does, he accuses her of discrimination as he is in a wheelchair. Even though he’d successfully hidden this from Claire on their sitdown dates, she can’t bring herself to do it. Nobody wants to be the girl who broke up with the guy in the wheelchair, and if anything Claire has a bit of a Florence Nightingale complex. 

She can’t just let things slide though. Something has to be done… Claire decides to fix him. Not the legs the racism bit. 

Naturally, she opts for a onewoman intervention/deprogramming session. She kidnaps James and holds him prisoner. What starts as a lover’s quarrel (of sorts) snowballs into a battle of wits as James the wheelchairbound bigot tries to escape the crazybitch do-gooder who is convinced that they can be happy together… if only she can change him.

SHOSHANA McCALLUM is a 2009 graduate of The Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York. Shoshanas New York stage roles include “Felicity” in The Real Inspector Houndand “Ilse” in Spring Awakening. Recent credits include Shortland Street and the upcoming January season of Cinderella at Aucklands Civic Theatre. Shoshana also co-wrote and performed in The Primary Motivations by Guilt and Shame for the 2011 Auckland Fringe Festival. 

SIMON WARD is best known as “Brian” or “Poochi” from the Tower Insurance commercials. Recent theatre credits include Idiots: Back2School, Pirates vs Ninjas by Anya TateManning, and The Christmas Monologues 2 by Thomas Sainsbury. Emotional, Cripple is Simon’s second collaboration with Shoshana McCallum after directing The Primary Motivations by Guilt and Shame for the 2011 Auckland Fringe Festival. 

Dates: 18 May – 21 May, 10pm
Venue: The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, City
Tickets: Adults $20, Conc. $15, Groups 10+ $15
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK www.ticketek.co.nz  

Less would be more

Review by Adey Ramsel 19th May 2011

James is disabled thinks Claire’s a psychiatrist’s nightmare. He’s right. Claire thinks James is racist but is too much in love to let him go. Therefore she has to cure him before they depart on the holiday of her dreams. “It’s not kidnapping if you’re meant to be together.” 

It’s Stephen King’s Misery without the suspense, without the back-story, without the plot.  Okay, they’re not doing Misery but it does beg the question, what are they trying to do? 

It feels more like an episodic skit you’d find in those UK sketch shows, (Catherine Tate or Little Britain); funny one-minute sound bites of quirky characters wrapped round a bizarre situation. Fine for a quick skit but enough to sustain an hour? The only people who can answer this honestly are the performers themselves. After last night’s opening McCallum and Ward must be well aware if they’re happy to be up there for 60 minutes or whether they feel they need to cut.

From an audiences perspective I’d cut and shave the whole thing down. If however length is important and there are those of us who do want our money’s worth in time then maybe give us more plot? More action?  When the end does come it does feel as if it’s run more than its natural course but there’s nothing to wrap up. No comical arc or circle of satisfaction. No ‘Ba-Dum-Ding’. 

Why pick racism?  I can see the arc of what plot there is when the ‘revelation’ appears as to how she thinks he’s racist – clever – but it doesn’t actually help advance the show.  Maybe racism coupled with… I don’t know. It feels like I’m trying to edit their script for them but I can only review as I see it by saying what I see and feel. 

There’s not enough to make us care as to what happens to justify a one act play; the zany, almost farcical segments lend themselves to the comedy festival but not enough laughs (though some witty lines) for it to be a hit.  Even a joke has to have a line of inquisitiveness about it that makes us want to follow it through to the end. What happens next? What’s going to make us laugh? At any time during the 60 minutes I found myself wondering if the cast took their bow there and then, would anything be left unsaid or un-laughed at. 

On the plus, and there were many, is McCallum’s performance as the psycho-stalker-bipolar bitch weirdo Claire.  McCallum does a nice line of dumb and, it has to be said, rules the stage. But then again James is not a particularly interesting character.

One could forgive Ward for his portrayal if he hadn’t written the character himself.  Surely here was the opportunity to give himself some hearty brushstrokes of wit, some dark inner secret of his own, a reason for us to watch him – in short a match for Claire.  As it was he seems little more than an angry foil for Claire who can’t readily escape because he happens to be disabled.  His disability is a characterisation that is screaming to be exploited. 

It’s a nice idea and staged concisely, though it feels like a first draft – the premise and show is in there it just seems to be floundering in what may be a case of ‘let’s write everything down we can think of to begin with’.  This works but you do have to be vicious when it comes to editing and not fall in love with bits of business or dialogue. The monologues, for one, add nothing to either character or plot that couldn’t be incorporated into the dialogue. 
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