Not Your Circus Dog is a collective of learning disabled and neurodivergent performers who, in their own words, are unapologetic and perform shameless sexy, punk, crip cabaret. The group includes Steph Newman; DJ Hassan; Emma/Xandri Selwyn and Adam Smith.
Directed by Liselle Terret, Not F**kin’ Sorry promises to take you on a journey that will make you want to join in and put your middle finger up to the world.
The show begins with the performers entering the space and mixing with the audience, wearing custom glittery PPE. DJ sashays around the seats, inviting the front row to blow kisses as the group gathers on stage. They rip off the sterile blue gowns and masks to reveal their costumes which are a better reflection of their personalities.
DJ wears a cloud pattern sky-blue short suit, Adam is in a vibrant neon green suit with a rainbow pocket square and Steph has on a silver sparkly waistcoat and pink tutus. Emma/Xandri is wearing a black and white vertical striped suit which gives them an edgy authoritative look and they immediately take centre stage.
Emma welcomes the audience and helps explain to the crowd how to use the green coins they were given on entering the space. You are encouraged to throw the coins into each performer’s bucket at the end of the show if you deem them worthy.
The performance is full of audience participation and ways to get involved with the show. Two members from the back of the room are invited up to play Countdown, while Steph and Emma don large theatrical moustaches, Adam grins wildly while simultaneously being the letter-board and countdown clock. The audience members cheer and play along with DJ as they spell out rude and funny words until the final one spells an ableist slur, and the room falls silent.
The shock from the audience is furthered by Emma standing on the stage under a spotlight, performing a confident and heart-wrenching monologue about disability hate crimes and reading the names of people who have lost their lives. This is overlapped by DJ dancing down the stage to ‘another one bites the dust’ as they are being beaten by off-stage attackers. You can’t look away as the performance captivates you and horrifies you at the same time.
The mood changes from sombre to surprise when Adam returns to the stage with his bright clothes and a huge smile, while Emma holds a large sign that reads “Yes we do have sex!” The performers invite the audience to reveal their fantasies as each of the performers removes layers of their clothing. Stripped almost bare, they begin to dance and encourage the audience to join in while Lily Allen’s ‘f*ck you’ plays loudly.
The show deals with sensitive and often not spoken-about topics surrounding disability in a way that forces you to pay attention. It is an incredibly moving and provocative performance from the small cast, and while on a smaller stage, the simple yet effective way it is showcased works perfectly.
You can see Not F**kin’ Sorry on the 15th and 16th of November at the Contact theatre in Manchester.