Writer: Amy Bethan Evans
Director: Spencer Charles Noll
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Opening The Bunker’s Breaking Out season, a series of new plays by emerging and exciting theatre companies, Libby’s Eyes is a successful and funny satire, which looks at how the government treats people with disabilities. Like the bureaucracy this play lampoons, Libby’s Eyes ticks all the right boxes.
Set in a world very similar to ours, the population is split into two, functioning people and non-functioning people. Libby is blind and to keep her as a functioning person she is given an AI device, a little like a Sony Walkman, which is able to identify shapes and faces; this device becomes Libby’s eyes. However, the device has a defect in that it doesn’t just see for Libby, but also thinks for Libby. The machine soon becomes foul-mouthed and opinionated and loses Libby her job and her friends. But should she return the robot just because it sees the world differently to other people?
Writer Amy Bethan Evans clearly has PIP in her sights. Replacing the Disability Living Allowance, the Conservative Government brought in Personal Independent Payments, which led to disabled people being ‘re-tested’ in order to re-categorise their disabilities. Evaluations are carried out by private firms, which award points for people’s disabilities. If you don’t get enough points then your payments are reduced, and support, such as money for carers or mobility scooters, is withdrawn. This policy is putting people’s lives at risk, and yet few of the media outlets have reported on it.
Libby’s father is also blind and becomes weary with the amount of hoops through which he has to jump in order to prove his disability. He makes the decision to become a non-functioning person, and henceforth is referred to as ‘it’ by government officials. Despite the serious aims of Libby Eye’s it is also very funny and at times subversive, playing with the idea that a show about disabled people has to be inspirational or heroic. Georgie Morrell as Libby has the perfect mix of feistiness and resignation, which makes her seem like a real person rather than a filmic exemplar. A good deal of the comedy comes from Louise Kempton, who begins the play as the audio describer for the visually impaired but soon becomes a character in her own right. Ariane Gray as Libby’s eyes excels as the cold robotic voice, stressing only certain words for comic effect.
Often when plays descend into postmodern knowingness, they expose a writer’s naiveté, perhaps coming across this approach for the first time, but Evans, along with director Spencer Charles Noll, reveals the making of the play for good reason, and this chaos is glorious. Although only 65 minutes long, this play could easily be reworked into a longer one, with the machine’s defect more subtly disclosed, or Libby’s relationship with her co-workers more deeply explored. But still, this is smart political theatre with a heart. And a deadly aim.
Runs in rep until 7 July 2018 | Image: Contributed