Aaron Simmonds isn’t happy with his venue. For most people, performing at Dexter in the bowels of McEwan Hall would be pretty cushy – nestled in the heart of the Fringe, mere seconds away from the action above ground. But for Simmonds, it’s a big inconvenience. Because Dexter, despite its great location, has a very low stage. And Simmonds, who isn’t the tallest even when standing up, is in a wheelchair.
To avoid disappearing behind the mass of shoulders and heads, Simmonds asks us to cheer him on as he manoeuvres himself onto a chair – he assures us that this is not a guaranteed victory due to his cerebral palsy. But he succeeds, we applaud, and then the show properly begins.
Part of Simmonds’ appeal is the way he weaves an overarching story into multiple anecdotes, calling back to them masterfully throughout the hour. He manages to juggle this story while still making very prescient points about the treatment of disabled people in our society – ranging from the patronising to offensive – without ever letting the mood fall flat.
As well as discussing his disability, Simmonds talks about his family (the lesson here is to never mess with his grandma), his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s father, who he met last Fringe under the most uncomfortable of circumstances. The second-hand embarrassment is excruciating, but we’re rewarded for our perseverance with a very satisfying conclusion which ties the whole show up wonderfully.
It’s refreshing to watch a stand-up routine which is unapologetic in its focus on the performer – Simmonds doesn’t try to shoehorn in a wider lesson at the last minute. Instead, he revels in the ridiculousness of his day-to-day life, and invites us to laugh along with him – and laugh we do.