Hello Cerebral Palsy Scotland readers! I hope you are well. My name is Jack Hunter and I’m going interview myself. No, I really am. I’m sitting here writing this at my laptop. I am speaking to you now from the past.
But before I start, I want to thank CP Scotland for their support and this opportunity to promote my new play One of Two, which is premiering at Summerhall, as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Ok let’s start:
Hello. Good to see you.
What is your connection with CP Scotland?
I am very happy to continue my association with CP Scotland. And in fact, it goes a long way back. My twin sister Bec and I both have CP, and we used to come all the way down from Inverness to the centre to receive specialist physiotherapy treatment. Of course, that’s when it was known as Bobath Scotland. I still remember going to the centre, when I was wee. One time In order to measure my gate, the team put dozens of little light bulbs on my body. It kinda looked like a motion capture suit, in a fantasy film. It was so cool! The centre does some fantastic work.
In 2019, I spoke at, what I believe was, the final Bobath Scotland Conference, with the Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company (BOP), Robert Softely Gale – who also has CP. We were speaking about a documentary they had produced in parallel with their 2018 Fringe smash hit My Left Right Foot – The Musical. The film was called You’ve Got to be Ballsy: Stories from the Frontline of Cerebral Palsy and the idea was for me to interview an array of young people with CP, to give them a platform to share their experiences of what being a young disabled person is really like. It was a real privilege to speak with all the people who contributed: artists; swimmers; actors; musicians – and Bec… But you know, I’ve heard all her stuff before… She won’t be happy with that. No, that’s not true. I think for both of us it was a revelatory experience. In fact, if anything it brought us closer.
Through the conversations I had, the aim of the film was to give disabled people, an underepresented group across society, a public platform, to spotlight discrimination and abelism.. In addition, the filmed participants challenged prevalent misconceptions about disability. I’m really proud of the film for this reason; as it enabled the individual voices of young disabled people to be heard. It’s one thing to raise awareness regarding the challenges disabled people face, It’s other to accept the expersonce of every disabled person is diffrent.
Very insightful Jack. Now tell me what is One of Two, what is it about?
One of Two is an autobiographical play that tells my shared story, with Bec, of two twins growing up with Cerebral Palsy. It’s a comedy drama, with shades of light and dark, as well as a lot of lunacy.
On the face of it, we find a very sad Jack (AKA me) alone in his flat, struggling to come to terms with the end of a relationship. He’s trapped in his grotty wee bathroom with a Star Wars inspired “Darth Tater” Mr Potato Head. What’s not funny about that? A revelation occurs to Jack (It’s funny talking about yourself in the third person. You can tell I’ve got the appropriate amount of distance from it now) that he has always needed to be paired with someone else. A friend. A partner. A twin…
Ultimately, the audience will go down the rabbit hole, or perhaps more aptly the toilet pan, with Jack through his shared past with Bec, past on a journey of self-discovery. Creating the show has been a lot of firsts for me. It’s my first ever professional writing credit and it will be my first ever acting job at the fringe – I’ve been living in Edinburgh for nearly ten years, so it’s about time really.
None of this could be possible without the support of a few organisations. Firstly, a big thank you to Summerhall for awarding me the Mary Dick Award. I’m buzzing to be part of their fringe programme. I’m incredibly grateful to Birds of Paradise Theatre Company for their support as producers. I’m excited that Robert Softley Gale is coming on board as director too! I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun.
I hope that’s enticed you into coming along.
Well… I’ll definitely be there. Why did you want to tell this story?
My relationship with my sister has had an everlasting influence on me and has undoubtedly shaped me as a person. So, in order to understand where I stand in the world, I wanted to unpack this unique relationship.
Without being too cerebral… the play focuses on the disparity of Bec’s and I’s experience of growing up with CP. As young kids our early years were near identical; however as we grew older, key differences have arisen throughout our lives.
You should know that I have a mild manifestation of CP (I walk with a limp as my left leg is shorter than the right), whereas Bec has a slightly more pronounced manifestation (she is a full time wheelchair user).
None of this should matter as people should be able to live their life regardless of their impairment but society has disabled us to varying degrees, Bec more so than me. I wrote this play because I wanted to investigate this disparity of experience; the inequity of experience between disabled and non-disabled people, but also within the disabled community itself. For instance, Bec and I’s experience within secondary and further education was vastly different. This primarily came down to contrasting attitudes of how educational professionals and fellow students perceived us and our abilities. I think the play boldly examines the partial failings of our education system and the methods of how it supports young disabled people.
Although the play has a strong theme of disability, it’s also a coming-of-age story, and I hope will have universal appeal with a wide audience, beyond being pigeonholed as a “disabled” story. I know “coming of age” is a bit of a cliché. A bit generic. A bit bland. But I don’t think it is a style of story often explored from a disabled perspective Bec and I have faced a few barriers throughout our lives; and I think as a society we often are conditioned to not talk about how this impacts our own mental health or self-worth. And at times we are hindered by and urged to adhere to idealistic societal expectations. But in the words of Fleetwood Mac: “you can go your own way…”.
I assume the play will be seen by a predominantly non disabled audience. My hope is that the play will not only raise awareness of the societal barriers that disabled people face, but to provoke the audience into reflecting upon their own perceptions of disability. This is in now way to alienate the audience. The world, now more than ever, is so polarised. In my mind you’re not going to instigate change by demonsing anyone. I want to bring the audience with me and keep them on side. How do I do that, you ask? Jokes. Lots of Jokes…..
Wow, how thought provoking!
Why, Thank you.
Why should people come see the show?
First of all, I should say that technically it’s a one man show. On the surface, that doesn’t sound very unique. One person shows are ten a penny at the Fringe. However, Bec will be with me, not in spirit, but through the wonders of multimedia. Voice over, projection and what not. So, she will have a presence. We will converse. And a jolly time will be had by all.
The play has an interesting blend of performative styles. Obviously, it’s theatre. There’s no getting away from that. But that’s not bad in the slightest. It means you can fit in a lot of styles. Not to say that it’s slapdash, you understand. It’s been honed, crafted, and mushed together into a smooth theatrical pulp. The key ingredients are: a slice of silliness, a sprinkle of stand up, and a slurp of spoken word. So hopefully, there’s something for everyone, unless you want interpretive dance. I can’t help you in that department.
However, I do feel that the main selling point of this play is the story. I believe it is truly unique.
What’s your relationship with Bec like?
Oh, we’re incredibly close. We don’t see each other as much as we used to, what with Bec living in Inverness and me living in Edinburgh. She has a great phrase “It’s a relationship that doesn’t require maintenance” which I think is so true. We can go ages without seeing each other, but the closeness is still the same. I think if you have that shared lived experience, you will always have a tight bond. But we definitely don’t agree on everything.
Having Bec involved in One of Two is incredibly Important to me. Both her and I care immensely about supporting disability rights and raising awareness. Whether it’s through my creative work, or through Bec’s disability training sessions with Naked Brains Consultancy. We want to instigate discussion and social change.
Are there, in your mind, any misconceptions that surround disability?
I think there are probably a fair few floating around. However, I think maybe the biggest dual misconception held by non-disabled people, is that disabled people are either inspiring or destitute. Inspiring because somehow we have defied the odds stacked against us to obtain a ‘normal lifestyle’: job; home; family. That kind of thing. Or we’re destitute, as those that have been disabled by society are left without support and slip through the cracks, leaving them with nothing.
This contrast in views, in my mind, is clearly down to a lack of socio-economic provision to support disabled people, but is also due to a lack of awareness across society. I hope that One of Two can shed some light on this gross inequality.
Thank you, Jack.
And finally, when and where can we see One of Two?
One of Two is at Summerhall in Edinburgh, from the 3rd – 28th of August, at 11:45am. The venue has level access, there is audio description and captions at every performance, we are doing four BSL interpreted performances, and one performance will be Relaxed.
If you want any more information, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jack_hunter95, and you can find out full details on the Birds of Paradise website.
Come along, It’s going to be a blast.
Thank you for taking the time to interview with me, Jack.
You’re so welcome.