Theatre Review: Learning to Swim on an Ironing Board

This year’s Push Festival is in full swing. HOME Digital Reporter Allen Thomasson went to see one of the newly commissioned theatre shows and found it delivered laughs alongside an honest insight…

Learning to Swim on an Ironing Board by Connor A was commissioned by HOME for the Push Festival 2019, and I’m so glad they did. Connor lives with Fibromyalgia, a severely debilitating syndrome and the piece offers a glimpse into his daily life. On entering the theatre space, we are greeted with a Chesterfield sofa, centre stage adorned with board games and papers, which sets the tone perfectly for a chat in Connor’s sitting room.

For an hour, Connor delivers a fast-paced comedy monologue as he delivers a ‘beginner’s guide to professional eaves dropping’, a technique that he developed following Terry’s advice, his therapist. I think we all enjoy ‘people watching’ when having a coffee in town, but Connor’s art of ‘people listening’ is on another level. Walking around the Arndale his advice is “it’s not where you stand, it’s who you follow”.

The piece was punctuated with short video vignettes dramatising some of his therapy sessions, with Terry being played by a stuffed owl because he couldn’t afford Terry’s hourly rate. These sections allowed Connor to rest, as he told us, due to the fibromyalgia, but they were perfectly synced and paced with the comedy. The comedy was self-deprecating and revealing but not once did I feel I needed to offer any sympathy for this man living with his condition as I was enjoying myself so much.

I found myself laughing out loud at several points – Connor has a gift for comedy. Living with an invisible disability he uses other people’s Post-It notes and I suppose the distraction of eavesdropping to cope with the daily trudge of living with his condition and in doing so has created a sublime piece theatre. I would love to see more of Connor.

See Learning to Swim on An Ironing Board here at HOME on Tue 22 Jan as part of Push 2019. Book tickets and find out more here