Press tickets #gifted in exchange for review.
Any performance that kicks off by quizzing unsuspecting audience members on what their favourite disability is, is one that I can 100% get on board with. Within the opening minutes of the set, having already pitted Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy against each other and thrown in a disability-oriented Harry Potter reference, I knew I could relax and enjoy Aaron Simmonds’ preview of his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe performances.
With recent credentials including being a BBC New Comedy Award finalist and Jewish Comedian of the Year 2018, Disabled Coconut fearlessly tackles some of the big issues: disability and identity, stigma and public perceptions, sex and relationships, social media trolling, and most importantly, the coveted accessible seats on public transport.
For me, as a disabled reviewer, it was incredibly entertaining to sit in an audience surrounded by presumably non-disabled people and see what resonated with them and what didn’t. There were disability-grounded jokes which immediately elicited a response, and others where I could see the audience members didn’t quite know whether they were ‘allowed’ to laugh or not, whilst I was sat there chuckling away. And that to me was extremely telling of where we’re at as a society when it comes to disability. There’s still a long way to go when it comes to breaking down barriers, but there’s no better way than with comedy, right? And I’ll be honest, I got far too much joy from watching those around me squirm a little.
The best comedians utilise their personal circumstances to form their unique material, but do so in a way that doesn’t exclude audience members outside of the minority or cause them to disengage. In my opinion, Simmonds got the balance pretty much spot on. A pet peeve of mine is when any minority performers pit those in the minority against those outside of it, in a very-much ‘us vs them’ set, but a strength of this routine was that it fostered much more of an ally-approach. Simmonds used his time with us to share some of the many challenges of life as a disabled person in the UK, encouraging people to give them some thought and have a proper laugh about them, without ostracising those who could not necessarily relate.
Material aside, what struck me about Simmonds was his easy, personable nature and how naturally he was able to interact with what, quite frankly, was the strangest audience dynamic I’ve ever been a part of. Being self-deprecating enough to evoke constant humour yet (self-admittedly) sensitive enough to have you rooting for him, I was impressed by his covert perseverance in earning the respect of individual audience members… whilst completely roasting them at the same time.
The one downside to being such a chatty and engaging individual was that diversions from the routine to engage with the audience were common, particularly towards the end of the performance. Whilst these were welcomed and embraced at first, as they should be, it did mean that there were moments of repetition, where it was easy to lose the momentum that was being built, or for audience members to slightly lose track of the story being told. Personally, I felt that these frequent diversions took away from some of the power of the original material, especially towards the end of the set. But really, if you’re being critiqued for being almost too-likable, is it really a critique at all? I’d still choose a warm and charming comedian over a frosty shell of a human being any day.
So, should Disabled Coconut be on your must-see list for Edinburgh this year? If you’re a disabled person: absolutely. Universally-relatable humour about life with disability (regardless of your specific impairment) combined with genuine and heart-warming disabled pride makes this one utterly enjoyable. And if you’re non-disabled: still, absolutely. Aaron Simmonds was a joy to watch, and I hope his talent is appreciated all the more in years to come.
And in the meantime, you’ll find me following his lead and requesting an Olympic-standard clap and cheer every time I too attempt to get on a bar stool. Those things were not designed with the vertically-challenged in mind.
Press tickets #gifted in exchange for review. Find out more about Aaron Simmonds and his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe performance dates here, and don’t forget to check out Great Yorkshire Fringe 2019 too. I’d love to hear what you’re planning on seeing this year!