“The right words can light up a whole new world”
This is one of the closing lines from Matilda Ibini’s Little Miss Burden which received its premiere this week at the Bunker Theatre in London Bridge. This brutally honest new play inspired by elements of Ibini’s own life certainly does contain the right words to bring light to an otherwise ignored narrative within our society. The coming of age tale focuses on a Nigerian family living in East London in the 90’s. It’s the story of Little Miss who lives with the rare genetic disorder, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD).
The three performers in the show each play one of the sisters. Their energy onstage is infectious and their chemistry as a family is totally believable. Michelle Tiwo as Big Sis commanded the space with great maturity as she cared for her siblings but flashed a cheeky grin to help warm the mood when the story grew more serious. Ani Nelson was the bubbly Little Sis whose shrewd delivery of witty lines had the audience belly laughing at her naivety. Saida Ahmed shone as Little Miss bringing absolute honesty, poise and all round sass to the role. Ahmed, much like her character, is a motorised chair user and it was evident that elements of this story hit home for her. However, it is so inspiring to see a story about life with a disability being told by a performer so passionate about putting something so personal into the spotlight to raise awareness.
The script has wonderful elements of light hearted comedic moments and then darker, much more serious, topics. The shifts in tone are seamless and you feel your stomach plummeting with disgust with how our society treats the disabled before then your sides splitting with laughter in an instant. Debbie Hannan’s direction integrates the moments of audience participation the text calls for with style without making it feel like a pantomime. The direction is simplistic, there is no disguising the serious narrative with clever staging. Movement was coordinated by Phao May and there are many moments where iconic 90’s hits are integrated into the story where all three performers can be equally involved with the movement, wheelchair or not - which is one of the story’s morals.
Little Miss Burden is a heart-warming but simultaneously heart-wrenching play highlighting the reality faced by many people with disabilities. The message is prominent but is far from preachy and in your face. An extremely entertaining piece which leaves audiences with lots to ponder.
It runs until 21 December
Review: Abigail Assock Photo: Kofi Dwaah