Rolling With Laughter

Natasha Wood and Beverly Sanders

Park Ravine Productions

New End Theatre

(2007)

Review by Rivka Jacobson

In a solo performance extraordinaire, Natasha Wood captures your attention for the full sixty minutes. It is a rolling autobiographical journey where the bumps and blows are safely cushioned by heartfelt humour.

She is young, attractive and beams with energy and love for life. Her voice and face dominate the body cradled in the wheelchair. Yes, she, like her brother Johnnie, was born with the genetic Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). The chest brace she needed at the age of four was her 'body armour' and a source of a lot of fun. That and the subsequent operations were mere commas in the unfolding life drama.

The pity she inadvertently attracted in her early years fuelled her appetite for success and achievement. That craving was sated by her abilities and not the pity of others that propelled her to a position of a production manager at the BBC NY office.

She impersonates with humour and ease her parents and the characters she encountered at different stations of her life. Growing in a home where the living room looks like a sex shop due to her parents' successful women's underwear business seems to liberate her when discussing her sexuality. Natasha's frankness about her sexual experiences and desires is rather sobering and dispels any distorted perception of the sexual energy in what seems a helpless body. She delicately yet vividly describes her first sexual encounter with Duncan, her desire for 'new tits'. Her humour and expressions fills the gaps and yet provide ample room for the audience's imagination.

Her marriage and her courage to move on when realising there is more to life than comfortable routine, her encounter with the dating agency in NY and trip to Hollywood are all saturated with acute observations and a hint of mockery. She knows her self worth and abilities without taking anything for granted. Natasha has a clear vision of where she wants to reach and to that end no decision is too hard to contemplate.

The premature death of her brother Johnnie rekindled her pain and in a simple gesture of turning her back to the audience the sense of loss is overwhelming.

The performance is sensitively directed by Cameron Watson who successfully balances Wood's impressive acting, talent teasing humour, sarcasm and wit throughout the performance.

Appropriately she ends with her father's tip: "A good bra supports the masses, lifts the fallen and can make mountains out of mole hills."