With a pop up hat, waistcoat and knowingly jaunty wink, Lisa Hammond dances around the stage belting out the annoyingly catchy lyrics to "Cheeky Face".
It’s a Dickensian song and dance number and a direct response to people’s attitudes towards Hammond as a disabled and restricted growth actor. Wacky and at points hilarious, "Cheeky Face" is the perfect marker of a show which explores attitudes towards disability whilst being steeped in Hammond and friend and collaborator Rachel Spence’s dry humour.
With a desire to work together on a show but a drought of inspiration, Hammond and Spence asked the general public what kind of play they would put them in. The answers, here mimicked with magnificent comic flare by the two whilst listening to the actual interviews on iPods, form the basis of No Idea – an exploration of both disability and friendship.
Directed and co-devised by Improbable’s Lee Simpson, the result is a rich series of post-modern meditations that skate through big and painful issues with healthy dollops of rye comedy. The interplay between Hammond and Spence is delightful and their comic timing is always spot on.
Encased in a utilitarian style of performance and setting (office blinds and Velcro walls) the sketches and ideas occasionally feel repetitive but there are enough moments of surreal inspiration to pull the piece back on course. Spence’s happy couple montage is a wonder and Hammond’s desperate and vulnerable Jack Nicholson (yep Jack Nicholson) impression hits the perfect balance of an emotional and political rant that avoids being worthy.
Made up of the direct expression of statements, feelings and observations No Idea is all the more potent for its simplicity. Without preaching Hammond and Spence are directly asking us questions about our attitudes and expectations, not only towards disability but of society’s idea of ‘normality’ as a whole. They’re also incredibly funny, charming and original; I left the theatre humming "Cheeky Face" and feeling thoughtful, but smiling.