I had to think a while before posting about my experience here on Saturday night, but ultimately I have been convinced that it is the right thing to do. The late night cabaret shows have been a semi-regular feature at the Delfont Room in the Prince of Wales theatre for a while now, and have starred other such luminaries as Janie Dee, Hannah Waddingham and the cast of Avenue Q. This Saturday saw the turn of Gina Murray and Anna-Jane Casey to take the stage, but it was not to be an enjoyable evening for me.
One or two numbers into the show, Anna-Jane Casey launched into a joke about country & western music and a group of deaf men, which was accompanied by I assume what she considered to be an amusing impersonation of how deaf people talk, which was then repeated several times. Ironically, I don’t even know what the punchline of the joke was since Ms Casey’s delivery was not sufficiently good to reach the side of the room, and the laughs that were being generated as much from her impersonations as the content drowned her out.
As a deaf man, I know that this was only really a sensitive issue for myself (and perhaps any other deaf people in attendance) but I was severely disappointed and upset to have paid for an evening’s entertainment only to find myself having to confront the prejudices and mocking that form a part of many disabled people’s everyday life. Perhaps Ms Casey wasn’t to know that her impersonation was just like one of the ways that I was bullied when I was younger, but quite frankly that is beside the point. At best it was highly insensitive, at worst it was downright offensive, it ruined my evening and left me extremely upset. I should probably have left at that point, but wanted to let my companion enjoy the rest of the evening, before letting him know how upset I was as we left.
I hope that Ms Casey realises how her lack of sensitivity can be interpreted by the very people she is poking fun at, no matter how innocently, and I would hope that she would refrain from using such behaviour in future.
In terms of the actual cabaret, I found it hard to enjoy it, given my state of mind but regardless, I did feel that it was somewhat underpowered. Everything was well sung, but Casey’s diction was really quite poor in most of her songs, and I felt Murray’s song choices were disappointingly pedestrian, veering heavily towards MOR pop songs whereas I would have preferred some more theatrical curiosities. I realise that shows like this come on top of the performers’ regular schedules and are meant to be informal, but given that there is a paying audience, I would have liked a little more of a professional and imaginative feel to it.