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> > > Spare Tyre Theatre present 'Scratches'
photo of female performer wearing white against a blue background

Photo © Patrick Baldwin

Spare Tyre’s Associates join forces with their Company of Artists to showcase stories, imaginations and physicalities through spoken word, song, dance, movement and film. Nicole Fordham Hodges saw 'Scratches' at the Albany Theatre, London on 27 February. It was joyous, playful and rude.

Ellie Mason is lying on the floor, breathing energetically. She has left her wheelchair behind for the dance piece 'Two Bodies'. The audience are still rattling their handbags as Ellie begins stretching out her red satin gloved arms, twisting her hair and patting the floor rhythmically.

Danielle Mullins enters in Ellie's wheelchair and they begin a gloriously rude, taboo-busting encounter, including some astonishingly suggestive wriggling. The dance culminates with them clinched together on the floor with Ellie's face and arm raised skywards in a gesture of life-affirming joy.

The next performance 'Woman Word and Film' seems at first to continue the sexual thread. Performer Vicky Lee stands silently in lingerie by an unmade bed. Images of her hands with red nail varnish are projected onto the covers, to the soundtrack 'Strangers in the Night'. Is this a piece about one night stands? Perhaps even the old cliché of a sad older woman remembering past love?
Vicky speaks the first lines of the evening: lines from Carol Ann Duffy's poem 'Salome' .

I've done it before
( and doubtless I'll do it again
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose?

Vicky Lee's timing is delicious. She reveals the poem's playful language and darkly comic twist to cold, glittering effect. The direction also has great poise. At one point, whilst pondering the forgotten name of her supposed lover, Vicky goes offstage to the sound of a toilet flushing.

The realisation that this is not a story of a one-night stand but of something much darker is revealed with the deftness of a knife blade. This is not the old story of a powerless older woman. I see the close-up glitter in Salome's eyes.

'The Fortune Teller' is a disquieting dance piece performed by DJ (Housni Hassan) to a dreamy soundtrack. It's a dance of striving towards the future, as Hassan tries to run both from and towards reality. What is he seeking? His hand points dreamily into the audience. I am uncomfortable in the front row, but I needn't worry.

The world of 'The Fortune Teller' is internal. A pattern is traced in white powder on the floor. Is it a target? A no-entry sign? DJ 's restless, expressive feet step into it. The soundtrack changes, telling us he will be a great performer, this is to be his fortune. In a twist which I find unexpectedly moving, the powder disperses, along with DJ's energy and self-belief. The dance ends in despair.

In the final piece ' Laughter, Wine and Sex is the Best Medicine', Alma Ramnauth skips expertly along the line between performance and bare-faced honesty. She entertains her audience with seeming effortlessness, meandering from her nursing career into encounters with French prostitutes, breaking unexpectedly into song or parody. It's almost stand-up. The comedy is held within a generous, expansive spirit: a huge safe space which can  easily encompass both a hilarious parody of Jessie J's 'Price Tag' and a rendition of 'Zadok the Priest', which she sings to round off the evening. 'And all the people rejoiced'.

After the applause Housni Hassan thanks the audience for coming. This spontaneous impulse seems characteristic of Spare Tyre's unpretentious, boundary-breaking honesty. ' It's very important to us too,' he says. 'Nice One!'

And all the audience rejoice.

You can see 'Scratches' at:
Redbridge Drama Centre
: 6 March 2pm and 8pm
Tara Theatre: 7 March at 7.30pm and 8 March at 2pm and 7.30pm

More info at: