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> > > Katherine Araniello & Jenna Finch: Screw the Taboo

Deborah Caulfield catches the latest Live Art collaboration by Katherine Araniello and Jenna Finch.

Woman with bright orange-red hair uses wheelchair to push another woman with long brown hair on a child's ride on toy

Katherine Araniello and Jenna Finch perform Screw the Taboo Image: Rachel Dowle

Previously on DAO I described Live Art as an in-your-face and effective way to engage with audiences on ‘trickier’ aspects of disability. Three years on, I stand by this.

The Yard website describes Screw the Taboo as ‘a feeble attempt’. There’s a time and a place for irony. Self-deprecation is easily misconstrued, for example as lack of confidence, and is potentially self-fulfilling.

Araniello’s work is thoughtful and intelligent. Her treatment of ‘hot-potato’ political subjects is both necessary and refreshing in disability arts, as is her deadpan style. She goes boldly, she does.

Screw the Taboo comprised a series of short sketches. The set began with a large-screen, sing-along karaoke. The audience was slow to join in, unsure whether to observe or participate.
First up, Billy J Kramer and the Dakota’s 1960s hit ‘Little Children’, a silly song with serious content; children bribed with sweets and treats to keep them quiet about things they’ve seen; innocence abused.

I showed my age as one of the few in the audience who know the tune well enough to join in. Did I feel guilty? What do you think? I hated the song at the time, though I know every word, the sign of a teenager not doing their prep.

The next number was 'Young Girl' by Gary Pucket and the Union Gap. More controversial than ‘Little Children’, it’s another 1960s hit that I hated.

‘My love for you is way out of line’; ‘That come-on look is in your eyes.’ Banned by the BBC, yet widely available on the internet (so what’s the point?), some argue that the song’s OK because the guy says ‘hurry home to your mama.’

The Yard audience sang its collective heart out. 

Once I’d worked out what was going on in Blow me down, I laughed out loud. ‘Blow me down’ translates roughly as ‘how surprising’. Here was Araniello, with barely enough puff to stay alive even on a good day, exerting such force of wind (through her mouth!) as to knock down co-performer Finch, who didn’t stand a chance, poor thing. When roles were reversed it was a different story. Araniello stayed pretty rock solid, with only a slight head-wobble.

In Candy Crushing, Finch scattered wrapped sweets around the floor for Araniello to run over with her wheelchair. There were hits and misses, with the audience cheering and sighing appropriately. Later, uncrushed sweets were thrown to the audience, which was only fair.

Backward Bingo saw the audience’s spirits and confidence rise to the occasion, losing inhibitions completely.

Everyone had received free raffle tickets on arrival. With stubs scattered on the stage floor, numbers were called out, people shouted yes, and Finch handed out assorted baby clothes to the lucky winners.

After a while, people started calling out their own numbers in a blatant attempt to rig the game, which the organisers encouraged.

When two people called out identical numbers (don’t worry, it couldn’t happen in real life), Finch threatened to rip a baby-gro in half. Only an outcry from the more sentimental theatre-goers prevented this outrage.

Since first seeing her perform ‘Why do you want to die’ six years ago at an ILA (Independent Living Alternatives) anniversary event, I’ve felt she deserved bigger audiences.

Check out the website and see her live when you get the opportunity.