Sunday, August 6, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe: 'One Hander', at C Primo 41, 5th August 2017

One Hander reviewed by David James

Rating: 3 Stars

Thomas Campbell was born without a left hand. In its place is what he calls "stumpy", which pretty much tells you all you need to know about how it looks. One Hander, written and performed by Campbell, gives us an insight into how people react to disability and its advantages and disadvantages.

Campbell describes the show as "a selection of stories you can respond to in any way you want." This is a teeny bit of a get out of jail free card, as while Campbell is a funny man on a mic, he doesn't want us to judge him by the standards of a stand-up. It's more of a humorous collection of anecdotes that outline his past, how his disability has affected his acting career and telling us some of the more negative and awkward reactions he's had over the years.

The best of these stories combine peoples' nervousness at dealing with someone with one hand with his matter-of-fact approach to life. It's important to remember that Campbell didn't lose his hand in some traumatic accident, he has spent his entire life without it and presumably doesn't see the point in mourning something he never had. 

We open with a moment that informed his Mum's reaction to stumpy and consequentially his own. Soon after his birth, a nurse came to her hospital bed looking worried, having heard there was something 'wrong' with the newborn. She peeled back the blankets in the crib to see Campbell and immediately reacted: "oh, is that it?".

That nurse was on the money. Sure, it'd probably be nice to have a full set of hands, but it's perfectly possible to get by on one. The rest of the takes us through his life up to the present, including his training Sydney's National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), his ambitions of becoming an actor and performer and how he's fulfilled them.

It's during his time in NIDA that the most interesting element of the show pops up - a prosthetic rubber hand that Campbell has a love/hate relationship with. It's the first thing we see when we enter the venue, popped up on the mic stand like a weird piece of modern art. One one hand, concealing who he is a sop to the arseholes this show is kicking back against. Wearing it feeds into an unhappy narrative that people with disabilities should hide them for the sake of 'fitting in'. On the other ha... uh... stump, Campbell is a pragmatist. He's a working actor that needs to put food on the table and doesn't want to play one handed soldiers his entire life. So on goes the prosthetic.

For me, the most evocative moment in One Hander was the moment he forces stumpy into the prosthetic. I had assumed it would just neatly slide on, but it requires effort involving rubbery squeaking noises and a *pop* as it fixes on. There's something queasily 'wrong' about it as it moves, finding myself unable to take my eyes off its gently wobbling fingers and the way the skin tone doesn't quite match his own.

Unfortunately, there was one sour note in the show - the very final moment in the whole thing. I'm not going to spoil because, hell, it might work for you. For me, it felt a little too crass and obvious and I got the impression (wrongly or not) it was something he felt obliged to do rather than actually wanted to. And besides, the show already has a great all-singing/all-dancing climax.

That aside, One Hander is a humorous and informative way to spend an hour. Thomas Campbell is charismatic, likeable and his anecdotes engaging. Sure it might not be the most gutbustingly funny show, or the most dramatically dynamic, but being genuinely interesting is rarer than you might think.

One Hander is at C Venue Primo Aug 6-13, 15-28, Edinburgh. Tickets here.

Tags: , , , ,

0 Responses to “Edinburgh Fringe: 'One Hander', at C Primo 41, 5th August 2017”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights