Comedian’s UK stand-up tour is an eye-opener for disability awareness

A COMEDIAN from London who went blind for a year uses her stand-up show to illustrate misconceptions surrounding disability.

 

Following her success at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Georgie Morrell, is returning with her previous show but is also showcasing an insightful new gig.

 

The 30-year-old, from Southgate, said: “A Poke in The Eye was a very intimate focus on my experience of going blind for a year. It did really well and has inspired the second one which is very different in style.

 

“The Morrell Highground is a bigger show with more props, sound, images, and audience involvement. It takes on my journey of disability with periods from my childhood and teenage years. It connects to wider issues like the benefits of the NHS and about being disabled and the barriers that exist.”

 

Georgie was born with Juvenile Chronic Arthritis, and at age three she was diagnosed with an eye inflammation called uveitis which led to her developing secondary glaucoma.

 

“It just basically battered my eyes for 20 odd years. I lost the sight in my left eye when I was 16. Then when I was 21 the right eye became blind.”

 

This fraught period in her life lasted for a year till some sight in her right eye was restored.

 

“I didn’t know if I would get my sight back, but I did and I only lost 10 per cent of what I initially had. There has been a lot of work on the eye to keep it stable, but there is a good chance I will go blind again.”

 

Georgie talks about the day she went fully blind.

 

“I was age 21; it was pretty sudden, over a couple of days my eyes were doing weirder and weirder things. Then over the space of a shift as a cocktail waitress it just went. My manager put me in a taxi to my flat and the next day I was seeing my consultant.

 

“I was terrified.”

 

She had to give up her independent life in North London and return to her parents and brother in Crowthorne Village, Berkshire, near Windsor.

 

“It was the not knowing that was scary. Life went on hold. If I knew what the outcome would be I’d be able make plans but I was in limbo.

 

“It was over a year that I was blind, it really dragged out. It took several surgical procedures, due to complications, when reattaching my retina at Moorfields Eye Hospital.”

 

She explains that over the years her family have been a good support.

 

“Especially when I went blind they were incredibly upbeat and cheery. It was very tough for me, because when I got fed up and wanted to be left alone they sort of kept up the fight for me.”

 

Although it was a difficult time for Georgie she feels it is important to share her story.

 

“To get into comedy you have got to have a niche and this is mine. It makes disability more accessible and makes people want to talk about it more if you get them laughing about it.

 

“Some people as soon as they hear you are disabled see you as a disability and not a person anymore. That’s the biggest issue we have at the moment.

 

Georgie believes that we need to talk about it more to help people to understand that there is nothing to fear.

 

“Anyone can become disabled and it can change your life but you have to adapt.

 

“You look at the world in a different way, and I’d say that’s a privilege not a disadvantage.”

 

This thought process inspired Georgie to write last year’s show for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

 

“The Fringe is a step on the ladder if you want to be in comedy. It is something you have to do, and it’s so open-minded and liberal. Working solidly for a month refines the show without you even realising.”

 

The show then went to London at the Soho Theatre and it is still doing the rounds before it returns to Edinburgh in August.

 

Although she feels lucky that it has had positive responses in Edinburgh and London she has struggled to attract audiences elsewhere.

 

“It’s not a disaster - more that sometimes people don’t want to discuss disability. The idea of making it funny really jars with some people so there has been some push backs. But I want to take it to wider audiences because they are the ones who may need to hear about it more.”

 

She admits that satirical elements in her new show are polished by watching comedians she admires such as Amy Schumer, Matt Forde and Sofie Hagen. 

 

Adding that the latter’s comedy inspires her: “I like Sofie Hagan whose new show is really personal like my stuff is. It is purely her and quite exposing.”

 

She said: “I don’t want to miss out when I’m in at the Fringe – it’s a great chance to get closer to other comedians I really admire – see them work each show.”

 

She talks about the moment she was able to see again which is also covered in her performance.

 

“It was in my parent’s garden. I went towards light. My parents were there and I went to them immediately afterwards.

 

“My body went a bit mad. It was sensory overload. I called my mum, she was thrilled. I went to my dad in the kitchen and he did cry. I remember touching his face – don’t know why.”

 

She describes how her friends coped: “My friends went above and beyond, and were very supportive. They are a very funny bunch and they made sure that jokes flowed and that I found time to laugh.”

 

The experience changed Georgie’s outlook on life. She said: “I don’t agonise about what I look like or when certain jobs need done around the house. There are bigger and more important things going on. I don’t want to worry about trivial things knowing I could lose my sight again.

 

“I don’t waste my time on foolish people who have no idea how tough life can get and worry about petty things.”

 

It took her around a year to get back on her feet again.

 

“I was pretty unhappy afterwards - it was quite an experience to mentally work myself through. Eventually I got it together and moved back to London and went to drama school.”

She graduated in 2011, and followed her dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.

 

“I always wanted to be a comedian so I wrote the show and thankfully it paid off. I found myself working on the circuit more and it went from there.”

 

She has found the cost a challenge and discussed her disappointment at government cuts to the arts.

 

“Self-doubt creeps in when you are exposing yourself in stand-up. Things like: ‘what will the audience think of me? ‘Is it good enough?’ - but you can’t let it take over.”

 

Georgie Morrell clearly has her eyes on the bigger picture and sees a future in comedy mapped out before her. 

 

To see full listing of all of her upcoming UK gigs visit her blog. Go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website to book tickets for either of her shows - A Poke In The Eye, and The Morrell Highground - showing this August.

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