It probably won’t come as news that the Tories are slyly picking apart the NHS, selling pockets of our much relied-on health service to private companies. But hearing about it from a lifelong benefactor certainly makes it hit home. Georgie Morrell is a partially-sighted comedian, here at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with her second one-woman show The Morrell High Ground. (Yes, she’s also performing her first show A Poke in the Eye, and is not afraid to cross promote the two – it’s the fringe after all, and performers need to take every opportunity they get for self-promotion.)
The Morrell High Ground sees Morrell unpack some of the taboos surrounding disabilities, weaving her own experiences in with touching anecdotes of her parents, all to the backdrop of the struggling NHS. It’s a raw, unapologetic personal account from Morrell of her experiences growing up with a form of arthritis as well as numerous eye problems which resulted in her losing sight in her left eye when she was 15 and going fully blind for a year aged 21. Morrell unpacks myths about blindness, answering some of the common (and not so common) questions she’s been asked:
Curious person: “Can blind people see when they dream?”
Morrell: “Yes! It’s all in your imagination.”
Curious person: “What’s it like having sex when you’re blind?”
Morrell: “Er… the same, obviously.”
Morrell is not self-pitying about her experiences – and you can laugh along with her without feeling awkward. She’s sometimes a little too fast in her delivery; we’re an intimate audience of just 14, but even so, certain moments could pack more of a punch if spoken slightly slower.
It’s a frank account – Morrell condemns her childhood and teenage self as spoilt, suggesting this show is an apology and a thank you to her former doctors. Her parents and their experience of looking after a disabled daughter also get a central role. They’re offstage characters here, but through Morrell’s recorded interviews with them, they become a very active part of the show.
A technical hiccup means scenes are lost in the last 15 minutes of the show. But despite AV playing a crucial role throughout The Morrell High Ground, the nature of Morrell’s act and her familiarity with her audience mean she can cajole us through it. Yes, we lose a powerful final message from an NHS doctor, and final interviews with her parents, but through on-the-spot anecdotes, Morrell smoothly fudges it, carrying us through her story into the present day.