I feel compelled to write a blog about tomorrow night. My character, Amy will be making her appearance in Life’s Too Short and I am really excited. Not only because I proud to be part of Life’s Too Short (LTS) but because I am curious to see the response. As someone with dwarfism (LP) and also someone who has thought lots about my body politics, I normally, avoid ‘dwarf roles’and have stayed clear of stereotypes. So why would I be in Life’s Too Short, you’d be asking in a puzzled fashion..
Well… what I loved about the script of Life’s Too Short, is that the world that can’t cope with difference, is given a giant middle finger. Yes, even a small difference like height, reaps lots of negative comments and attention in our community and I decided it was high time we laughed at it. The ridiculousness of it all. Not the ridicule of Warwick Davis, which some people have confused as being the point of focus…
It is a heightened cruelty in the world in which Warwick Davis’ character lives in LTS. But is it really? Do you remember the news this year that England’s Rugby Team, was dwarf tossing in NZ? How much outrage was there from the community in response to this? Not much or certainly not as much as there should have been. Yet, a few feathers get ruffled because Warwick (a business man and successful actor in real-life) makes a gag of getting in a bin and highlighting society’s inequity as part of the course… So how cruel is the real world then compared to the pretend? And isn’t Warwick just poking fun at the truth, that our society is shallow and needs to look at itself and giggle at its foibles and maybe change?
Comedy is truth and I hate to say it, in this industry, of which I have worked for 10 years, successfully avoiding cliché’ – although we all have our price; I feel I need to mention this in case one day I am offered my price and do sell-out – I have seen it all.
I have heard one of the producers from the film Jaws, complain that the “Midget” used in the cage scene was a waste of money because he had a panic attack whilst diving with a shark and had to be brought to the surface, setting production back and requiring post traumatic stress support. I have seen talent buried in costumes, disabled comedians prevented from comedy panel shows, because their “disability in a live situation could unnerve other comics”. I have seen the safety and dignity of performers disregarded, diversity sidelined to tokenism. Reports filtering back from the latest diversity awards ceremony would indicate embarrassingly so…
I think Life’s Too Short humanises diversity. Warwick is a lead role in essentially a self-devised concept based sitcom. He is funny, fallible, vulnerable, a dick, clever and too proud for his own good. In short, he is human.
In regards to ideas that the show has a negative impact on the representation of people with dwarfism, I disagree. Shows which have lead to my direct ridicule on the street are productions where the little person is voiceless, a side kick with a catch phrase or a mini me type version of the main star. “The plane the plane”, “Mini Me”, “Ding dong the witch is dead”, “Hi Ho” etc… have been yelled at me in daily life… but never a quote from Time Bandits… why because they were cool! They were characters in their own right with ideas and were diverse from each other, individuals.
What I find offensive is the English Rugby team dwarf tossing in NZ. That’s de-humanising, cliche’ and shameful ridicule, turning different types of people literally into objects of sport! And putting lives at risk. Or that most of our representation is through documentary, where the disabled person is passively observed. Without a balance in front or behind the camera in an active and (paid) role. *
What you’ll see in my episodes coming up, is touchingly human.
Although people might feel uncomfortable with the way Warwick’s character gets treated sometimes… maybe their discomfort is really with the way LP’s (or anyone with a disability/difference) gets treated in our society. Maybe the joke in on society… and not on Warwick Davis… and a shake up has long been over due. Warwick’s character is brilliantly human and flawed.
Where I do feel uncomfortable as a person with dwarfism is that it is true, the not reaching door bells and asking a stranger who responds rudely. Access to buttons, doors, atms. Actually falling out of my car (although it isn’t as big). Tumbling off highstools in bars, climbing onto furniture elegantly in a short skirt trying to retain some dignity as a woman who doesn’t want to flash the world her knickers. And the rude people in society, filming me with mobile phones and making comments, while I’m minding my own business existing. But, just because the truth is close to the bone isn’t a reason to shut down to the humour in it.
That’s art, comedy, theatre, drama… it holds a mirror up to the real world and says, ‘look at yourself’. And people are talking about the show, leading to more awareness. And remember we are professional actors, employed for our skill and knowledge, not passively being observed or followed around or bullied into filming scenes we didn’t want to film. We were part of the creative process.
Falling over is part of life, it is certainly part of the disabled experience and people with dwarfism fall over too…
I became an actress to explore the human experience and whether you think LTS does that in a humorous way or not is down to you. This is the first ‘dwarf’ character I have felt confident to play with no need to return the script with a note attached to the producer, politely explaining why I found it so offensive.
In fact when I read Amy’s first recounting to Warwick of a date she’d once had, it was so well, written and eerily close to a real-life experience of my own, I had to wonder how Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had managed to write the experience so honestly from their own imaginations.
Hope you enjoy the next 3 episodes
If you’re interested in seeing the episode http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017cj76