The commonplace narrative of disabled life isn’t one which often takes sexuality into account. This narrative, at its best, often patronisingly centres around inspirational triumph over adversity stories and promotes those who remain positive, optimistic and thankful even within their darkest hours. At its worst reductive and ableist language homogenise disabled people as objects of pity or disgust, deepening oppressions. These ideas, even the more salient and supposedly kind ones, dictate that a ‘good’ disabled person should be grateful, thankful, unquestioning of their position in society and, through its negation, sex-less with no sexual desire of their own. Obviously, this narrative is deficient and disappointing on all facets. A new musical play by Brighton-based writer Damien Darkness, directed by Judey Bignell and featuring songs from Birdeatsbaby’s Mishkin Fitzgerald, seeks to address the dire need for proper representation of disabled sexuality, agency and frustration on the stage.
Aptly titled Sex and Disability, Damian Darkness has written a new musical which is candid, raw and filled with witty humour. Drawing from his own experiences as a stroke survivor, the play centres around Nick (Thom Jackson-Wood), a 20-year-old left disabled following a stroke, and Jasmine (Eden Avital Alexander), his new carer. Jasmine quickly realises that Nick is not like most people she has cared for, Nick is bright, precocious and above all else determined to date a woman online called Lucinda (Beth Angel). But how far is Jasmine willing to go to help him? This play aims to challenge perceptions of disabled people through both its writing and its inclusion of disabled people and voices throughout its entire creation. It speaks to conversations about sexuality but also about what it means to care for someone as well as the public politics of disability in a moment in time still deeply affected by austerity. The impact of cuts to social care will be a major issue in the upcoming General Election. Further cuts may exacerbate existing strains on care workers, and on the ability of disabled people to receive essential and empowering support. At this time it is imperative that the conversation about disability is enriched in every way possible. Sex and Disability seeks to reintroduce this conversation which is so easily brushed aside.
Written by disabled writer Damian Darkness, and starring disabled actor Thom Jackson-Wood in the title role of Nick, and funded by both Arts Council England and Scope Sex and Disability will leave you thinking more about the sex lives of disabled people – and why we don’t see more of it on-stage.
Sex and Disability will be performed at the Purple Playhouse Theatre in Hove from the 8th-10th November, beginning at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10.00/£8.00 concessions and are available to buy from the Purple Playhouse Box Office or online.