“Roll/wheel/hop/crawl/dance/walk up and join Mary Nugent” is the introduction we’re given to Don’t Be Looking!!!, a 60 minute piece that captures aspects of life as experienced by those in wheelchairs. Fronted by Mary Nugent, a wheelchair user herself, the ensemble create a delightfully
inspirational movement piece that has no agenda other than fun.
Before we take our seats in the Cube of the Project Arts Centre, Mary Nugent welcomes us and congratulates us on making it to the show. She repeatedly warns us of the ramp that is positioned beside the seating rig, and her patronising wit perfectly sets the tone for what we’re about to see.
The stage is set with ballet barres, a micro-scooter, mini skateboards and an office chair, symbols of active lives and the numerous ways in which wheels play a huge part in all our daily routines. The ensemble introduce themselves and each other with a childish competitiveness that is reflected in their brightly coloured dresses and shirts, and create a wonderfully chirpy and inclusive atmosphere for the audience. The piece explores many facets of life in a wheelchair, yet never demands sympathy nor pushes smug happiness.
Recordings of interviews are played as the women use movement to emphasise certain points, with the most serious section of the piece coming in an exposure of the questions people always, and never, ask wheelchair users.
Nugent quite literally deconstructs her wheelchair for the audience, and moves with ‘him’ as she truly personifies the inanimate object for us. The soundtrack is uplifting and would make a perfect ‘walking’ playlist without a hint of irony, with ‘walking’ the very theme of many of the songs. The
audience is engaged throughout and are rewarded with a chance to attempt “The Wheelchair Slalom”, an obstacle course that Nugent makes look effortless, in a variety of different chairs with wheels. The air of friendly competition rings throughout the performance and proves that a disability certainly does not warrant special treatment in that regard.
Nugent and her ensemble have created a stirring and animated depiction of life in a wheelchair and this is definitely a show to see if you don’t actually know anyone that uses one. This is a sincere piece of art and the glittering demeanor of Nugent is palpable throughout. She is an extraordinary
choreographer, performer, and woman. Though some of the movement sections may be a little too long and lacking in variation, you are guaranteed to leave this show with a huge smile on your face and the feeling that you could conquer the world.
Don’t Be Looking!!! runs until September 16 th at 18:45 in the Project Arts Centre.
Ensemble: Mary Nugent, Leonie McDonagh, Marion Cronin & Sarah Ryan
by Joanna Kelly