Francesca Martinez: In Deep
5/5 (five stars)
Francesca Martinez (pictured below right) is one of this country’s best known disabled comedians and increased her profile recently by refusing to carry the Olympic torch in protest at China’s human rights record, writes Mark Drinkwater.
In Deep provides Martinez with an opportunity to air her views on a range of weighty subjects including capitalism, politics, fundamentalism and, of course, our attitudes to disabled people.
But while her set includes some thought-provoking examinations of religion and politics, the show is perhaps a bit too much like the Olympic torch she refused to carry – mostly burning bright, but from time to time merely flickering.
A self-confessed “wobbly” comedian, Martinez has cerebral palsy – or CP as she refers to it, claiming to be “too lazy” to call it by its full name. There is an uncomfortable paradox for disabled comedians – if they want to be seen as mainstream this involves them not doing disability gags. But invariably comics’ best humour comes from their unique personal experiences.
Inevitably with Martinez, her material about disability is her funniest and most authentic. She asks us to consider why it’s OK to want to abort a disabled foetus, when there isn’t the option to abort ones that grow up wanting to vote Conservative.
But disability is also the topic of one of her gags that left me most bemused. She introduces her spiel on politics with: “It’s great to finally see some disabled people getting into positions of power… like George W Bush!”
While the audience laughs, I’m not sure it’s so funny. Is the implication that it’s ridiculous that a disabled person might be president? Or is it implied that George Bush has learning disabilities? Whatever interpretation you choose, the distinction between laughing with and laughing at is in this joke pretty blurred.
In Deep never rivals the depths plumbed by more established political comics who have graced our television screens such as Mark Thomas or Mark Steele.
And thankfully she is not as self-righteous as these satirists.
We’re long overdue having a disabled comedian fronting their own series. Her work has a unique perspective and surely it’s only a matter of time before Martinez gets her own show.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London.
Francesca Martinez: In Deep is at The Arts Depot, London on 19 July