A show about how we look at each other
If there are no good roads, you end up choosing whichever is the least bad, says Jan as he walks in the spiral staircase between the stage and the lodges. The premises of Kronoberg’s regional theatre are not adapted for actors with disabilities, but now the stage is taken by three people whom all have rather sever cases of visual impairment. The performance is called “Att se” (too see), which paradoxically is about the opposite, not being able to see.
The script is based on personal stories. Abdullah, Jan and Parimah all share their experiences and struggles.
– A good representation that has stuck with me is a wheelchair-bound person sits below a steep staircase to a building. Below the picture the text reads, it’s not you but society that’s handicapped. I think that’s rather eloquent, Parimah says.
Mosaik meets with the trio in the foyer of the lodges one hour before the performance. It’s a moment of relaxation prior to the warmups and then an hour’s performance.
– It is a little nervous before you get started, states Abdullah.
Abdullah is a Palestinian, born and raised in Iraq. He is diagnosed with RP, Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that has rendered him with only ten percent vision.
– I have difficulties making out details or colours. Also, I tire quickly when reading and am very light sensitive.
He came to Sweden in 2013, lives in Öhr north of Växjö but is currently studying at Glimåkra folk high school when he is not on the theatre stage that is.
– I have never been interested in theatre. So, it is unexpected that I am now suddenly in a theatre performance!
How did it happen?
– I sit on the board of the association “Unga med Synnedsättning Syd”. We were asked to participate in an upcoming performance at the Regional Theatre, which was based on stories about life as someone who’s visually impaired. I replied that I was happy to participate, but I was not going to be on stage. However somehow, they managed to convince me.
Having a limited visual acuity brings many challenges, but today there are many technical aids that make everyday life easier. For example, Abdullah has a special computer program that zooms in and enlarges texts.
– I use it now when I study at the folk high school. Much of the study material is also recorded as speech books.
Parimah, like Abdullah, has been diagnosed with RP, although in a different form. In her case, the vision has progressively deteriorated, and she currently has about three percent vision.
– I don’t notice it day by day, but my vision is worse today than it was a year ago.
Jan has grey and green cataracts and has gone from having quite good vision in his youth to now only being able to see within per thousands of the vision he once had.
– I take medicine with anti-retroviral effects, but don’t know how long I can manage to keep the limited visual ability I have left.
How are visually impaired people treated? And how do they want to be treated? These are issues that all three discuss. Jan believes that people who want to help often focus on the wrong things.
– People wonder how we know that the potatoes are cooked, how we manage to turn the TV on or how we know that the sink is clean. But most things in everyday life we can handle without any problems. There are other things that cause difficulties, things that happen less often. For example, buying a new TV, changing a fuse, taking garden waste to the rubbish dump, filling in digital forms or when there’s suddenly two decimetres of fresh snow.
Walking downtown with a cane works most of the time, however when there’s fresh snow or ice on the streets there are issues.
– I never dare to go to town myself even if I have a cane. I feel insecure. I tense up and I’m afraid to fall. Besides, there is always construction and obstructions in Växjö centre which makes it even more difficult, says Parimah.
Jan is entitled to an attendant twelve hours a month, a service he is pleased with, but is however limited by certain outdated and absurd restrictions.
– My attendants are only allowed to help me outdoors, however, everything within the house's walls is prohibited by the regulations. For example, they may not help me change a light bulb. And if they are to help me read the post, then we must go outdoors. It is all silly bureaucratic rules.
“Att se” (To see) consists partly of a fact-based part and a more supernatural segment where Abdullah, Jan and Parimah turn into superheroes and even play people whom aren’t visually impaired. Getting on stage has meant a positive experience that has left them wanting more, says Parimah.
– It feels right.
What’s the feeling like when you leave the stage after the performance?
– Pride! Both pride in myself and on the others. That we managed to do it and performed so well.
Being daring and believing in oneself enough to overcome obstacles is an important message in the performance.
– It is possible to overcome obstacles. Most things in life you’re able to perfect with practice, Abdullah says before joining Parimah and Jan towards the stage.