Satire is a word bandied around the comedy genre of theatre a lot these days, sometimes without the chops to back it up. Proving that the art form is far from lost, FlawBored deliver a pointed, deliciously hysterical skewering of identity politics and the debate over being a good/bad ally in It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure. The show dips between a meta-theatrical world and hyperbolic satire of influencers, in the former of which three actors do their absolute best to try and meet the audience’s access requirements while not offending them, and in turn doing the opposite.
Meanwhile, the players dive into the heart of identity politics in their dizzying exploration of the influencer industrial complex centred around the concept – “What if disabled people were out to make as much money as possible from the guilt of non-disabled, anxious people?”. The three welcome us to RIZE Talent Agency, who are in a frenzy of crisis PR after being accused of ableism. The suggested antidote? Weaponizing a disabled influencer to extract as much guilt cash as they can through shadow-written books, experiences that let non-disabled people experience feeling marginalised, and rampantly attacking anyone who criticises them in the process with their online following.
The meta and story elements of the piece are given just the right amount of balance to hold the buoyant atmosphere in the room with a light touch. The jokes, especially in the meta sections, are dark but watching the faux-fumbling through accessibility, trying not to offend, and actually trying to find their way back to the story sees our threesome spinning plates in all the right comedic places. Part of the comedy comes from the pin-burst expectation defying jokes that cross traditional boundaries and taboos about the crossover between disability and characteristics like race, nationality, language, and gender. However the whole thing is weaved through with the thread of a satirical reflective lens that turns the spotlight of expectation away from the performers and onto the audience, examining how far we’re willing to go to help defy conventional narratives.
That ethos comes across in the moments of audience participation, which are as stupidly humbling as they are hilarious. It makes you reconsider the narrative you’ve been told about how we make each other comfortable in spaces that disable people. Such experiences include being invited to grab one of the cast members during a ‘touch tour’ which was actually just him rotating his way through the front row. This then weaves its’ way back into the story arc, in which we see non-disabled HR professional Helen Richardson regurgitating textbook practices around disability to a blind employee. The juxtaposition of convention, intersection, and unwinding expectation holds the piece throughout, meaning you’re left in fits of laughter through much of the runtime.
Intuitively, the story elements of show tie the conventional means of meeting access requirements from the meta sections into the storytelling, through devices like the “vibe-based” audio description, which allow moments of expressive, often deeply funny reflection back on the whole thing. The piece has been cleverly devised to wrap you within its’ ethos without a second being wasted on packing a satirical punch. Performances from across the trio highlight this, and their instinctive chemistry on stage carries you through the kaleidoscopic exploration of “What’s the worst that could happen if we pursue the exploitation of parts of our identity for personal gain?”.
Samuel Brewer shines as the hard-nosed, defiant and greed-driven PR exec Tim, while Chloe Palmer’s fretful and fractious Helen Richardson exposes both the spurious and well-intended natures of the intent of corporate inclusivity practices. Aarian Mehrabani has naturally perfect comedic timing, and left me genuinely winded with laughter a couple of times. The pure dedication to telling this story and packing a hearty punch at the subject matter binds them together in a showing of first class storytelling practice.
The real pleasure of the piece is despite the fact that it often shines the spotlight back on you, the audience, by examining your own pre-conceptions through humour, you never feel pushed out by the ethos. Instead, It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure shows how a web of awkward, disenfranchising weaponisation of our identities is spun – and how it can leave us feeling further apart rather than closer together. Pure genius.
A hysterical hour-long dressing-down with a scathing satirical wit. FlawBored’s commitment leaves this piece about as close to perfection as you can get.
Recommended Drink: A shot of pure gin, save the tonic – Flawbored certainly have.
Catch It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure at Underbelly, Bristo Square – Friesian at 14:20 until August 27th. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.