Saturday, 28 October 2017

Communication problems are no laughing matter!

I went to  play at the weekend. It was well directed, superbly acted and every bit as funny as had been advertised: Talking Steps by Alan Ayckbourn. 

The blurb had described: 'When tongue-tied solicitor Tristram is sent along to oversee the sale of a large and crumbling house, reputedly a haunted former brothel, he may have bitten off more than he can chew'.

However, what I didn't find funny was the way the poor solicitor stammered and had word finding difficulties. I found that part really uncomfortable and was surprised that everyone else appeared to find it tremendously funny every time he opened his mouth.

In the end the character gets not just one girl but two and has the last laugh but even so, I didn't like that element.

I had to remind myself that it was written for a 1970s audience who would have laughed at speech impediments. I felt hopeful  that we have moved on since then and that no-one with a speech or language difficulty would be made fun of in any play written today.  

People have studied what makes something funny since time began. Philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, alluded to the idea of the superiority theory thousands of years ago. It suggests that all humour is derived from the misfortunes of others – and therefore, maybe our own relative superiority. Thomas Hobbes also alluded to this theory in his book 'Leviathan,' suggesting that humour results in any situation where there's a sudden realisation of how much better we are than our direct competition.

Am I right to be offended or do I just fully realise the huge impact when society doesn't fully understand the major impact of having a communication difficulty?

What do you think?