Sunday, October 2

Kerbs – Unity Theatre

Kerbs, written by Michael Southan and directed by Nickie Miles-Wildin, is a brutally honest and delightfully awkward story about dating with disability and fighting for your independence while keeping your relationships, romantic and otherwise, alive. Fully subtitled throughout, with audio description available, the play cleverly uses set and graphics to bring life to an original take on the boy meets girl story.

Lucy (Maya Coates) has signed up to a dating app and it’s clear from the start that she’s looking for sex rather than love. As is always the way, there are a few cringey profiles that she quickly blocks, but sparks fly when she “meets” David (Jack Hunter) resulting in some heavy flirting in the DMs. They soon meet up in person for drinks, but a fun evening which both are hoping will end in the bedroom, takes an awkward turn when Lucy falls from a kerb in her wheelchair and hurts her arm.

Mortified by David, a stranger, seeing her at her most vulnerable, Lucy orders him to call her Mum, put the phone on speaker and leave, which he reluctantly does. But David isn’t giving up that easily and Lucy is horrified when he turns up at the hospital with flowers and magazines. All is soon forgiven though, and Lucy begins the difficult process of trying to keep her home life with mum and carer, Carol (Rekha John-Cherlyan) and budding sex life with David far, far apart. But things aren’t that simple when you need full-time care, and your mum wants to keep you safe. What Lucy and David need is some time away, and Carol’s friend Toni (John-Cherlyan) who was her late wife’s full-time carer, might be just the answer to their problems, if only they can get her to agree.

This is a very funny play which makes great use of awkward humour and emotionally charged situations. Both Coates and Hunter give brilliant performances as fully developed characters just trying to find their way in a world which hasn’t been designed for them. Kerbs makes some great points about accessibility and shows that there is far more to reasonable adjustments than popping a ramp down and fitting a level access toilet. Doing all of this through fantastic use of delightfully awkward humour while also highlighting the issues that disabled people face with financial and care support, as well as the new issues faced during lockdown which continue as the pandemic features in the background of non-disabled people’s lives, this is a brilliant piece of theatre.

Exploring the role of care in the sex lives of disabled people and the issues that can arise when one or both partners have physical differences, the play does not hold back in its graphic representation of the story being told. There are some very poignant moments where Lucy and David face the dilemma of life being easier if you just don’t bother doing things at all, rather than pushing through the difficulties, and both characters are very easy to identify with as they experience both the beginning of a new relationship and everything else their lives throw at them.

John-Cherlyan’s portrayals of both mum, Carol and family friend, Toni, are excellent and so distinct that it is easy to believe the characters were played by a different actor altogether. The care and delicacy shown as protective mother contrasts well with the freer and more open nature of Toni and both characters’ own back stories as carers and the impacts that this has had on their lives are fully fleshed out and would be very worthy of even further development if the piece was made into a longer play in the future.

Kerbs is a hilarious and touching play which explores the messy world of online dating, sex, disability and care in today’s world. Exploring the frustrations that come with living with disability and maintaining your independence, and the impacts of care on both the carer and cared-for, this is a painfully funny piece of theatre which will make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about being disabled. 

Kerbs is on tour until 2nd April 2022. Tickets are available here https://graeae.org/our-work/kerbs/  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 9th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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