Francesca Martinez brands herself "the world's wobbliest comedian". She has a form of cerebral palsy, the full name of which, she says, makes her sound like a Dr Who villain.
This show is ostensibly about Martinez's disability, but it's really about all of us and how we react to difference. Why do we define people with disabilities by what they can't do, rather than what they can?
Martinez might claim not to be scary ("If disabilities were curries, I'm just a korma") but patronise her at your peril. She's had a lifetime of condescending comments, of labels and assumptions, all of which are gleefully unpicked in this show.
She fires questions at a bloke in the front row who, according to his girlfriend, is rubbish at driving. "Is it genetic?" she asks. "Did you go to a special school for kids who can't drive?" And the clincher: "Does this mean you can't have sex?"
With the audience now fully aware of the absurdity of how people with disabilities are often treated, she takes them on a ride through her life so far.
Her parents were told their daughter would never lead a "normal" life. But that was not something that ever concerned the young Martinez, who admits to a real disappointment in discovering that while her favourite game was ringing people's doorbells and running away, she wasn't very good at the running away part.
As a teenager, she stunned teachers who rubbished her idea of being an actress ("You might want to think about something with computers," they told her) by landing a role in a hugely popular BBC children's TV series. As an adult, she’s notched up some impressive performances too.
But despite her success, you can't help but share her frustration as she talks about still not being considered for panel shows in her native UK (while Australia's Spicks and Specks has welcomed her). She’s a funny woman.
A lifetime of dealing with other people's reactions to her disability has given Martinez a wealth of material, but there's more to her than that. Some of the best parts of the show are not directly related to her disability at all. When she re-enacts a teenage declaration of love for a man she has never even kissed, using the medium of frankly dreadful poetry, I defy anyone who has ever been a teenager not to cringe along with her.
The ending of the show was unexpected. Suffice to say it wasn't funny, but entirely appropriate for a show that makes you think as much as it makes you laugh.
Ortas Productions presents
WHAT THE **** IS NORMAL?! RELOADED
Venue: Metcalfe Playhouse | 12 Lake Street Northbridge WA
Date: 12 – 15 Feb, 2012
Tickets: $25 – $23.50
What the F*** is Normal?! Reloaded | Francesca Martinez
- Val McFarlane