Telling the stories of disabled women

Published: 22 September 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Bea Webster as Cuba in Funny Peculiar Credit: Film still
Liz Carr as Zsa Zsa in Funny Peculiar Credit: Film Still
Mandy Colleran as Blanche in Funny Peculiar Credit: Film Still

Funny Peculiar is a new production from Little Cog which challenges perceptions about disabled women in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recently released figures show that disabled women are 11.9 times more likely to die in the current pandemic than other people,” says writer and director Vici Wreford-Sinnott. “Terms like 'vulnerable' and 'underlying health conditions' have led to thinking that the deaths of certain groups of people are inevitable. Expected and accepted.

“It feels more important now than ever that we ensure we are visible.”

Part of the Staging Our Futures programme co-commissioned with ARC Stockton and Northern Stage, Funny Peculiar stars Liz Carr, Mandy Colleran and Bea Webster, as well as Vici Wreford-Sinnott.

Liz Carr (Zsa Zsa) played Clarissa Mullery in the BBC's Silent Witness for eight years. She is an actor, comedian and disability rights activist, a member of the Disabled / Deaf women’s comedy group Nasty Girls, a frequent voice on the BBC Ouch! podcast with Mat Fraser, a stand-up comic with Abnormally Funny People and a passionate opponent to legalising assisted suicide through both campaigning and her creation of the show, Assisted Suicide—The Musical.

Mandy Colleran (Blanche) has been involved in Disability Arts since the 1980s. She was a founder member of the comedy trio No Excuses and was also a founder of North West Disability Arts Forum, later becoming its director. She won a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dadafest in 2007. She was involved in Kaite O'Reilly's In Water I'm Weightless for the National Theatre of Wales and has had a long career as a speaker, feminist and campaigner for disability rights.

Bea Webster (Cuba) is a deaf actor who trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is an actor, drag artist, writer and speaker on Deaf equality. She is currently in rehearsals with the Royal Shakespeare Company for The Winter's Tale, and starred in Red Ladder's Mother Courage and Her Children and Kaite O'Reilly's Peeling which toured in the UK last year. She is passionate about classical and contemporary texts in English and BSL, has contributed to BBC Social, has hosted several events and has published a poem in both BSL and English, Long Lost Lover, about her birthplace of Thailand.

Vici Wreford-Sinnott (Raquelle) is Artistic Director of Little Cog, writing and touring nationally a number of pieces of work including Butterfly which was named Best One Person Play by the BTG in 2017, Another England and Lighthouse. Her recent commissions The Wrong Woman Discussions and Siege for ARC Stockton and Home Manchester can still be seen online. She is a lifelong feminist and activist, regularly speaking and campaigning on disability rights and the role of culture and the arts in equality. She is a founding member of both Disconsortia and We Shall Not Be Removed.

Zsa Zsa, Raquelle, Blanche and Cuba are in quarantine—four disabled women locked down, locked in, shut up and shouted down. While the rest of the nation is in meltdown, it takes a lot to phase this quartet. The new terrain is worrying and frustrating but these women are prepared—perhaps they have waited for a moment like this their whole lives. In a sequence of four original, cross-cutting, broadcasting from their own homes during quarantine, these women are myth-busters giving their all to expose the lie of vulnerability.

Funny Peculiar will be available online on Little Cog’s YouTube channel from 24 September until 24 October.