Today we’re joined for a Digital Pint by the team behind It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure heading to VAULT Festival next week. The show tackles the issue of disability within the arts head on, with a dark comedic outlook that hopes to challenge and play with preconceptions of disability. We sat down for a pixelated pint with the gang to talk disability, satire, politics, accessibility and Picklebacks.
Catch It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure at VAULT Festival between the 21st and 26th February. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
Hey guys – so this is FlawBored’s debut piece, following a blind talent manager “desperately trying to make disability the next cultural caché”. What inspired you to take this piece to the stage?
Sam: “Honestly the idea came from a Novara Media video talking about the “influencer industrial complex” which examined people who took advantage of the resurgence of black lives matter in 2020 by using their social media platforms to sell pro BLM merchandise with all the profits going to themselves.”
“Then I started thinking about how someone could do this for disability. So I called Aarian and we started riffing on the idea of two blind people creating an onlyfans account, brought on Chloe and the idea just snowballed. We use blindness because that’s what we know, but it’s a wider satire about how protected characteristics are cynically monetised and over-emphasised for fame.”
The piece is a dark comedy which is a satire of the monetisation of identity politics – how was it writing a piece of dark satire about identity politics and disability, as a disability-led company?
Aarian: “It was actually quite cathartic to let our imaginations run a bit wild with examples of the ludicrous lengths the monetisation of disability could go to. It gave us the opportunity to poke fun at ridiculous interactions we’ve had with people and stupid things we’ve been asked. There’s all the stereotypes and ignorance but there’s also the people who are so terrified and fragile about any criticism. These same people also expect to be celebrated for doing the smallest things.
Sam: “We’re looking at big issues but we’re trying to do it in a way that uses humour not finger-wagging.”
Aarian: It also lets us play more complicated characters – some funny, some quite unpleasant – who exist beyond being ‘BLIND PERSON’.
Sam: Also Aarian and I are too young for the old blind man parts (despite the fact that i look like S***) so we need to work until we get there.
How was the process of creating the show? What sort of characters and situations can the audience expect to see on display?
Chloe: “As a company we’re really grateful to have been supported by so many amazing organisations who believed in us. We started in 2021 with a week long R&D at WILDCARD in partnership with the Watermill theatre as a part of their Launchpad program. After a showing with CRIPtic at the Barbican, we won the 2022 Greenwich Theatre award in partnership with LET! We were pretty excited and it sort of came out of nowhere. It was the first time we were able to feel like people really responded and liked our work. Then with more support from Theatre Deli, a Camden People’s Theatre seed commission and funding from Arts Council, we were able to bring on board some established collaborators which meant we could focus on acting and writing. We’ve been working hard with our director/dramaturg Josh Roche for the last few months to present the finished version you’ll get at VAULT.”
“As for characters:
- Sam plays Tim – a diversity hire talent manager who’s ruthlessly ambitious and vengeful.
- Aarian is Ross – the naïve blind influencer who he convinces to join him.
- Chloe plays Helen Richardson – the walking embodiment of ableist guilt. She has a reading list in her email signature, she’s an ALLY and proud (or she thinks she is… well, she’s trying?)
- But we also multi-role a lot and there’s a lot from our own experience of trying to make an accessible show and the contradiction in that.”
You’ve noted in your show’s promo material that you’ve tried your hardest to make the show “as accessible as possible… but it’s really f**king hard…” How have you found the process of making the show accessible, and does the show have anything to say about accessibility in the entertainment industry?
Sam: “Really fucking hard!… We’ve come to realize that we think the concept of a fully accessible show for every audience member is a myth. We have great audio description and captioning but are they fully accessible for every potential audience member who relies on them? We can’t know.”
“But there will always be some access issue we can’t solve this time. VAULT can be a loud space. Trains run over the top of the performance spaces. Some people might not like that.”
“We can’t stop the trains. Apparently.”
“And stopping public transport would be ableist and discriminatory for those not at our show.”
“Though they are, of course, ableist for not supporting us.”
“In seriousness, if you have any concerns about accessing the performance space, VAULT have made a great offer of trying to make the festival as accessible as possible: https://vaultfestival.com/accessibility/”
“Embracing how difficult access is is good! The detail we go into is a piss-take of a theatre which does three captioned shows a year and says they’re being accessible. We’re captioned, have incorporated audio-description and use a relaxed environment for all performances.”
And we have the same access on all performances because normally theatres seem to think all blind people can make the same single date in a three month run…
“Fully accessible is something big organisations like to say they’re thinking about or ‘aspiring to’ but you can never know the access needs of every potential audience member! Unless you individually ask everyone for their access needs, you can never guarantee a show is fully accessible. Even for people with the same disability, access can be really different. And that’s fine! We’re gently mocking big organisations who think they’ve solved access with a brief policy when it’s a personal issue. The knots people tie themselves in for access are front and center in It’s a MotherF**king Pleasure.”
“We should emphasise that it is a really accessible show! More accessible than you’ll find in most places!”
Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT Festival 2023, what are you most excited for?
Chloe: “None of us have ever taken a show to Vaults so we are super excited for the community vibe of the whole place and to be performing underneath one of the busiest train stations in London.”
Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
Aarian: “What the f*** is that and why?”
Is there anything you want to talk about freely? I can rephrase it into a question when formatting the article. Feel free to use this as a chance to cover anything important you feel we’ve missed or plug the show/your company.
All: “I think it’s important to recognise that there are a broad range of disabilities and access needs and all too often people only focus on ones that are “Palatable” or “easy to deal with”.
“We poke fun at disability and access but it’s important to remember that the show is a comedy and we don’t know everything (yet). It’s important to continually engage a wide range of people with varying access needs and experiences in these conversations. We hope It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure is a good starting point.”