10 Oct ‘Blink’ What I really thought & Why We Had To Do It
Let me talk about Blink and how much of an impact working on that show had on me & why everyone involved felt so passionately about the world of Blink and our characters.
The way Blink was set out was that it was a show drenched in real ideas, real happenings and real life experiences. I find it strange and maybe a little bit frustrating that the audience only got to see the actual show and not the months of devising, sharing & bonding that made Blink possible.
Blink as a show was cold, harsh and brutal, though the making of Blink felt very warm supportive & loving. It had to be that way for the show to be as honest as the show was. For this show to work the way we wanted it to, we as a group felt it was so important that we demonstrate the darkest parts of what our lives have been like at times and the day to day assumptions that society makes about you if you don’t fit into the neuro-typical box that society deems as normal. Society likes to think that because we have disabled people on the occasional TV programme and that because we have social media hashtags supposedly in support of better mental health, that’s enough, that we don’t face everyday discrimination as a result of how we were born, or even how we were made by a society that didn’t do enough to include us. So Blink was our chance to show that we still feel left out, that we are aware of how we are looked at and more importantly that how we are viewed is heavily influenced by the powerful & privileged decision makers who enforce policies that neglect any kind of empathy towards the vulnerable and marginalised in favour of “economic wellbeing”. This further stigmatizes those of us that need more support due to our health conditions as burdens to those who are more able to contribute to society in a traditional sense. Blink was an expression of what society could become if we continue to allow these ideas to persist unchecked & worse still if we continue to vote for people with these views into positions of power.
Sorry I got ranty didn’t I, but that’s why Blink meant and means so much to us. On a personal level I have held onto so much pain relating to how I’m viewed as a disabled person and also as a person who has a hidden mental health condition, people assume I’m depressed because I’m disabled. I’m not depressed because I am disabled, I’m depressed because of how society views me and my friends and how society has made us internalise that, so the mental health scene within the play was so important in showing that. It isn’t nice but those were real comments and sentiments . That scene was intense and I think we did for a moment question whether it was too long but quickly decided that the scene had to be that way because we as cast members have had a life time of that kind of thinking and misinformed cruelty, so maybe the audience should witness that discomfort and deal with it.
The making of Blink was many things but it was massively freeing and validating, when we opened up about our struggles in life during rehearsals through improvs or just discussions for show content, I felt like people cared and that my story mattered, there were no eye rolls and I didn’t feel like I was going to be told to be more positive or that it could be worse, the comments of most neuro typical people who “mean well” though some how not well enough to listen and try to understand us. I mean I wasn’t surprised because Ego is Ego, one of the safest places I know, though I think I just got used to people in general ignoring, minimizing & able-splaining stories like mine. There was none of that and in the devising of Blink, it really was all love, hard work & fun. Blink really forced me to challenge how I view disability but not just how I view my own disability but the way I have viewed other types of disabilities and mental health conditions and how I may have viewed others in a derogatory way out of ignorance arrogance and stupidity. I have no right to minimize anyone else’s’ humanity just because they have been born into different circumstances than mine, I have felt invalidated by so many people that felt they could do that simply because they viewed me as less human than them and I know how that feels, it sucks and it sucks even more that I may have made others feel that way in the past. On a personal level, hearing the group discuss disability in depth a lot more & feeling a new positive outlook or perhaps a more realistic view of myself as a disabled person really jolted me into trying to change how I viewed myself & how I perceived how I can contribute to society. Perhaps being or trying to be a good person and a positive influence is at least as valuable to society than someone who is able to work and contribute in the traditional financial sense. All the things we were talking about in the making of Blink really kicked my butt in the best way possible, I wanted this show to change minds about mental health, disability & humanity. However it wouldn’t of made sense for me to preach a message I didn’t feel or believe fully so Blink was one of the things that pushed me into making some really important changes in my life for the betterment of my mental health and outlook on life.
The doing of Blink, performing Blink was strange, shocking and surreal but also undoubtedly rewarding! Blink was the most confident I have felt as an actor and I think that’s because a lot of the time I wasn’t acting or at least it didn’t feel like I was, I’ve been in situations where people have mocked my speech and patronised me, that isn’t hard for me to act. I’ve been in situations where I’ve witnessed people get hurt and have been powerless to do anything but scream and cry for it to stop, I didn’t have to reach far to get that. I’m painfully aware that many in society view me in ways described in the mental health round, I know that I’m assumed to be A-Sexual & A-Romantic because of how people like me are portrayed in the media. All of the things said by Kimisha & Faduma’s characters were real. When Georgina & Corinne first read that part of the script to me none of it was surprising. Of course it hurts deeply knowing that people view me and people like me in those ways but it was very liberating for me to show the audience not only that I know these attitudes exist but to show how it affects & hurts me. Nobody should have to brave discrimination, the way disabled are expected to due to society’s lack of empathy & unwillingness to understand. So to expose everything the way everybody’s character did during that scene felt amazing!
I don’t really know if I was expecting the audiences to react in any specific way, I know I’ve mentioned before that I was hoping they would be offended for the right reasons and that I was hoping Blink would stay with them. Judging by the tension immediately after the final scene every night and the feedback we got from the audiences’ we gave them a show that stuck with them. The general mood seemed to be that people didn’t want to say that they “liked” it, because of course they enjoyed the show Blink but not the realities within the show. Some audience members felt uncomfortable clapping at the end as it didn’t feel appropriate. Personally I think that type of reaction tells me that Blink wasn’t just any other show and that it had a real impact on people, which is backed up by the fact so many people told us that we needed to share Blink on a bigger stage and that more people had to see it.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now due to this stupidly lengthy and heavy worded blog, I really loved being part of Blink and everything we managed to accomplish by being so open and honest. Blink has left a lasting impression on me in terms of me wanting to do more in relation to disability and mental health advocacy, I want to put the passion that Blink reignited in me and have my voice be heard. I think it goes without saying that I hope we get to revisit Blink again in the future. I’m so proud of everyone involved with Blink and really believe more people need to see Blink!
Till next time.
Photos by Nicola Cashin