Upgraded to the larger Studio Theatre from Blah’s usual cosy backdrop of Bristol Old Vic’s Basement Arena, Jackie Hagan’s one-woman show engaged, entertained and challenged the crowd amassed.
Following a brief but impactful warm-up performance from her darkly-humoured collaborator Thick Richard, Jackie entered casually, sipping from a pint in front of the low-tech, glammed-up staging.
The show charted Jackie’s reluctant transition to adulthood through personal stories on alternating timelines, interweaving tales of her youth in the North with her recent, unforeseen confrontation with disability after severe health complications resulted in the amputation of her right leg.
Oft-described as a ‘disco dinner-lady’, Jackie very much embodied this juxtaposition; the gritty, resonant references of her warts n’ all, working-class story were relayed with a contrastingly boisterous flair evidenced in the explosions of colour in her hair, the unorthodoxy of her eye-catching clothes, and most of all, the larger-than-life persona she exuded so affably.
Liberally peppering the narrative with crowd-pleasing nuggets such as her cultural analysis of the mid-2000’s, “I thought Jedward were a symptom of my psychosis” and smirk-inducing similes, “she looks like a threadbare tennis ball, with eyes”, the audience enjoyed the way the world looked through Jackie’s window.
The subject matter itself though, was at times far from lightweight.
Illness, amputation and, ultimately, our fragile mortality, can quickly grow heavy under even the most casual contemplation. That the experience Jackie created in Bristol could - whilst exploring the weighty topics above - remain so punctuated with laughter and optimism, is illustrative of her character.
Character, and its role in our ability to overcome life’s obstacles, was the show’s takeaway message – or parting gift, even.
No matter which cards we’re dealt, it’s how we choose to play them that’s most important.
Through the highs and lows of the evening’s narrative, Jackie demonstrated indomitable spirit. This sentiment was compounded strongly in her forever-memorable finale which involved the downing of a pint she'd poured within the previously-unnoticed, chalice-shaped properties of her detached prosthetic leg. Rarely does such a comfort-zone-challenging spectacle present itself in life; not just inspiring to behold as the liberated action of an individual, it was perhaps more impressive for its broader normalisation of that which may often otherwise be considered sensitive, off-limits or taboo.
‘Some People Have Too Many Legs’ was, and will for a long time remain to be, a memorably unique, thought-provoking and powerful experience.