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January 2015

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Don’t Wake Me – The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong

Cockpit Theatre

Tough show to review – a one woman piece about a mother with a son who has cerebral palsy (I have it too) who tragically dies at the age of 15. Made even more powerful by the fact it was a true story this has to be one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen on disability. I went with my mum and she seemed to find it much tougher than I did, I know no different, I’ve always been the way I am and I love it. What made this show was the detail, mentions of the Bobath Rehabilitation Centre that I was dragged to almost every week from age 6 to 11 (it’s a place that pokes and prods you, helps with movement and such). Even made my own exercise video to Avril Lavigne there. I was a badass kid. Also talked about the invention of Botox injections. I get them on the NHS because I’m special.

           It’s difficult for me as a person to watch someone find disability sad as that’s what I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid. I’m the sort of person that tries to find the best of everything and I’ve always had a ‘just get on with it’ kind of attitude which seems to have got me pretty far. This show did make me think a lot about how hard it would have been for my mother – all the doctors asking questions, my future and achievements being very unclear, even whether I’d be able to get into school and complete my education. Although we argue all the time and she currently has my laptop and mobile under her control I do appreciate everything she does and how much she has pushed me, and this play did open my eyes to some of that struggle

           I am determined to have kids when I’m older and I never want to love anything more in my life. I could tell from the moment this piece started this mother loved her son so much that it almost pained her. That’s what parental love is.  The way she said “my little love” with such tenderness, I couldn’t help but relate and I’m nowhere near having a child. Being disabled means you sometimes have to fight for simple things and that’s what she did in order for her son to have as fulfilled a life as anyone. Little things became far more complicated, I remember being in school and having to fill out a huge long statement just so I could participate in everything I wanted to. Another thing was the constant tests; it seemed every second week people were testing me on various abilities that seemed ‘essential’ for a fulfilled childhood. I found it a fucking bore. I’m sure Nihal did too.

           The performance of this piece was faultless; it got to the stage where I wasn’t even sure she was acting. It was amazing how a few simple props, a supermarket wheelchair; a white bath robe can essentially create a life on stage. Nihal was with us the whole time, this was his piece, his life and his moment and I felt privileged to b be able to share something so personal and intimate. By the end there was not a dry eye in the house and although it is by no means Broadway or shouting from the rooftops, it’s a start. And a bloody good one too.

Overall – touching, personal, sombre

Don’t Wake Me – The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong

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