This is an historic project that may not reflect my current thinking
Normality is a play written by Simon Stevens in October 1991. The play was written to give people a better understanding of many issues which are ignored. It is based around Frank who has Cerebral Palsy very much like Simon. The play confronts the very difficult issue of normality. Is somebody with a disability normal?
While it is a serious play, it uses comical statements to emphasise important concepts. Amongst other things it explains what Cerebral Palsy is and the difference between disabled and handicapped. This play is only a slice of life, rather than being a story it acts a window showing the many issues which are faced by Students with Disabilities in mainstream education.
The play was first performed by Collyer’s Sixth Form College in December 1991. The performance lasted four nights with one matinee and put on in combination with Find Me, a play on mental health. The play was written to take account of the large number of female actors involved. The acting was excellent, Frank was played by two non-disabled actors on alternate nights, one male and one female, they were both very good.
The second performance was by Coventry University Student Union’ Film and Drama Society in March 1993. Performed over two nights it was combined with some Monty Python sketches to form “Normality meeting Insanity”. Frank was played a female actress. Produced solely by students with assistance from Simon Stevens, this was a highly unique production.
In September 1993 the play was performed for the third time at Aberstywth University. It was the opening act of the Choice Motivation Course Talent Show. After only two hours of rehearsals it was watched by 120 Liverpool “Year 11” Students. Because of the short production time Frank was played by Simon Stevens in his first ever lead role. This quick performance was highly successful and enjoyable to all.
No new performances are planned but if you would like to perform Normality yourself please contact Enable Publications for further information.
This play is roughly based on my own experiences. I have Cerebral Palsy and since the age of 11 I have been fully integrated within a normal school. I wrote this play to describe my feelings on being disabled within an Able Bodied environment.
This play was first performed by Collyer’s 6th form College in December 1991 after being adapted for their benefit. I would like to thank all those involved with the first production of Normality for all their advice and support, may they have much success in the future.
I hope this play has been interesting and one day I hope to be able to develop Normality into a TV series.
This play is based on Frank. Frank is 15 and attends an all boys secondary school. This is quite normal except Frank has Cerebral Palsy with a speech impairment, quite rare in an Able Bodied environment!
Frank: Central character
Frank has Cerebral Palsy which makes him quite jerky and he
has poor speech. He is very witty both verbally and by other
means. School is not his Favourite pastime since he is bullied a lot but he gives as much as he gets. He uses computers a lot and cooks up many crazy scheme.
Mum: Frank’s mum
Frank’s mum is a very caring person but is very ignorant of
Frank’s disability and IQ. She mainly believes that Frank will
get better one day which Frank keeps correcting her.
Ted: Frank’s brother
Ted is a pain. He teases Frank all the time but Frank will get
his revenge when the time is right, mum is always on Frank’s
Tim: New best mate
Tim is very good with computers and helps Frank against
Nasher has got it in for Frank is one step ahead!
Brains: Bully’s firstmate
Not so bright
Fred: Bully’s second mate
Mrs Lobby: Tutor
Mrs Lobby is very sharp and understands Frank
Mrs Oldby: English Teacher
Miss Eyes: Maths Teacher
Miss Eyes is not so keen of Frank.
Scene 1: The bedroom
Frank is nearly dressed. He is struggling with his shirt buttons.
Frank: Ted! Ted!
Silence- Frank tries to do up his shirt button
Frank: Ted! Please would you do my buttons up!
Frank gets annoyed and waves his arms about
Mum: (from distance) Do his buttons up (sigh)
Ted walks in
Ted: Hmm. What do you want?
Ted: What about them?
Frank hits Ted around the head
Frank: Do them up!
Ted starts to do Frank’s buttons up
Frank dribbles on Ted’s hand
Ted wipes his hand on Frank’s shirt
Ted: Back to school today.
Frank: Yes, I wonder how long it will be before they start?
Frank: The abuse! Hope its original, cakes and biscuits drives me
round the bend. Its you 1st year at Wood Boys.
Ted: Yes, not looking forward to having my head down the bog.
Frank: Out of my four years at Wood boys they had never done that to
me, they took the mickey out of my speech, what I wear, how I walk, my haircut… everything but that!
Mum walks in after listening to Frank
Mum: Come on Frank, it’s not that bad.
Frank: Oh yeah! You are not there.
Mum: You are exaggerating! Right, are you ready?
Mum: Frank flies?
Frank looks down and does them up
Frank: My Taxi, better go!
Scene 2: Tutor Group!
Nasher is sitting on a table with his gang around him.
Frank walks in.
Nasher: Hear comes the mank. All right Spaso?
Brains: Nice summer Mank? Meet any other Spasos?
Frank sits down and Mrs Lobby walks in with Tim and sits down
Mrs Lobby: Sit down everyone. This is Tim pointing to Tim. He is new at
Wood Boys. Tim, sit down next to Frank, nobody is near him.
Nasher & Co giggle as Tim sits next to Frank
Tim: Hello? … Are you Ok?
Frank: Ok ? Why?
Tim: Nothing, just you don’t speak properly
Frank: Yes I know, and can’t walk properly. Yes, perhaps it’s the fact
Tim: Hmm, Yes, very witty! So what is your handicap?
Frank: Sorry I don’t play golf.
Tim: Okay! What is your disability?
Frank: That’s better, I have Cerebral Palsy.
Tim: My brother works with CPs. If you have Cerebral Palsy why are
you almost normal?
Frank: Not all CPs are in a wheelchair and are mentally retarded
although not all end up in this hell hole-I am it.
Tim: Really? At my previous school there are no disabled students.
Frank: Hmm. Let me welcome you to Woods Boys. I will show you the ropes if you like?
Tim: Yes please. I am somewhat nervous and it is nice to have
someone I know. Well…
Tim is interrupted
Mrs Lobby: Time to go to your next lesson, good luck.
Everyone leaves the room!
Scene 3 Maths
Everyone is working quietly in maths.
Miss Eyes: I must go now. Finish questions 5 and 6. And Frank, don’t wind
Frank mutters “why me”.
Miss Eyes leaves the room
Fred: Frank! Don’t wind Nasher up.
Tim: What did Miss Eyes mean?
Frank: Its called Blame the Victim. According to Miss Eyes and the
Head I must meet people all the way and that this abuse is in my head. 5 4 3 2 1
Nasher: O! Mank! Where did you get your haircut? I’ll shoot him for
Frank: Bang on time.
Brains: Mank! Manky Manky Manky Mank!
Frank: Shut up!
Fred: What do you call a group of manks?.... Vegitable soup
Frank: You are mentally ill!
Tim: Either Miss Eyes is a hypocrite or I’m also imagining it.
Frank: Yes this has been going on for four years and I damn well hate
Nasher: (imitating Frank)… Talk properly! And stop gobbing.
Nasher gets up, spits on Frank.
Frank is now angry and spasms up
Frank: That’s it. I hate you. You are an evil, mentally deformed
bastard. I just want to get on with life. What have I done to
Nasher: I’ll tell. You get off PE. You have a computer. You get out of
trouble. And Mrs Lobby said to treat you like any other person.
Frank: Yes, as in give a fair chances, not wind me up for four bloody
years. I am different, I have special needs. I wish you would
learn that I am Human, with rights and feelings not some
nightmarish thing haunting your egoistic mind.
Frank begins to weep gently
Miss Eyes walks in.
Miss Eyes: I warned you Frank, I heard what you said. Report to the Head
Frank screams and cries heavily
Frank: You evil cow! You victimising hypocritical cow!
After Frank had explained the situation and threats of
malpractice, suspension and kicking heads in had died down things go back to normal, Whatever that is.
Scene 4: The Corridor
Nasher & Co bump into Tim in the Corridor, Nasher brushes Tim almost knocking him down.
Tim: Watch out!
Brains: It’s the Mank’s new friend.
Fred: What are you doing hanging around with that Spaso?
Nasher: Don’t you know its impolite to mix with Manks.
Tim: I like Frank. If you don’t like him it doesn’t mean everyone
have to agree with you.
Nasher grabs Tim’s neck
Nasher: Look here! You’re new, in this school what I say goes.
Brains Yeah, what he says goes.
Tim nods and Nasher puts him down.
Scene 5: Lunch
Frank is eating lunch with Tim.
Tim: Sorry to ask but what is Cerebral Palsy? It been bugging me all morning
Frank: That’s all right. Cerebral Palsy basically means brain damage
Tim: Ow! Does it hurt?
Frank: (Laugh) Ofcouse not, I find it hard to believe it myself. Me…
Tim: How did it happen???
Frank: Well. At birth I lost some oxygen which caused the brain to be
damaged. The doctors did not think I would survive let alone do GCSEs.
Tim: Amazing! Have you had any operations?
Tim: To make you better?
Frank: Hmm. No! I don’t believe in operations. I feel normal since I
have never known what it was like not having Cerebral Palsy. A major operation Just like that operation where they break your legs would make me feel disabled.
Tim: Don’t you want to be able to walk properly and talk properly?
Frank: I can walk! An op there would be cosmetic to please Able
Bodied people. Talking is hard work but I never want to be
able. It frightens me that One day I’ll wake up normal.
Frank: I’ll have lost my identity and life will have no aim to it- the
aim to go where no other CP has gone before.
Tim: It must be hard having Cerebral Palsy
Frank: Not really- it must be very boring being normal.
They both laugh
Frank: Do you like computers?
Tim: Yes, I’ve a BBC Master.
Frank: So have I. Would you like to come round after school? I have
Tim’s face changes. Frank works out what is on Tim’s mind. In
anger Frank slams his fists down.
Frank: Its Nasher. I bloody hate him. He had a go at you for talking to
me, didn’t he?
Tim: Yes – but I am not frightened of bullies and if I want to talk to
you I will. And I will come round.
Frank: Okay. Thank you Tim, not many people disagree with Nasher.
Tim: It’s a pleasure.
Scene 6: English
Mrs Lobby: Today we are going to discuss minority groups. Who can name one? Yes, you, Tim?
Tim: Handicapped people
Nasher: Yes Manks
Mrs Lobby: That’s no way to talk about the handicapped. No Tim,
handicapped people are not a minority group, they … Frank,
what do you want?
Frank: Ma’am, we are a minority group, we have less rights than black
people. Also I and other disabled people are not handicapped
and do not like being called handicapped.
Mrs Lobby: Why not?
Frank: Disabled is a statement Eg you cant walk. Handicapped is what
people tell you can not do, such as if you said I can’t do an
exam because I can’t write then you will be handicapping me but if you asked me whether I could do the exam then you wouldn’t.
Mrs Lobby: Yes but you are handicapped because you have Cerebral Palsy.
Frank: Yes, only in the fact that society says I can not work and lead a
normal life. With the right attitude and the right equipment
no-one is handicapped.
Mrs Lobby: I see your point.
Nasher: I think manks should be shot at birth.
Tim: Are you a Nazi or what?
Mrs Lobby: Nasher! Report to the head for discriminating a minority group. So Disabled people are a minority group….
Scene 7: After School
Tim and Frank are playing on Frank’s computer. Ted walks in.
Ted: Who is this?
Frank: This is Tim, he is a new pupil at Wood boys. Tim, this is Ted,
my lazy brother, it was his first day too.
Ted: Hello. Its not often Frank invites a friend around.
Frank: Its not often I have any friends to invite.
Tim: I can imagine.
Mum walks in with a tray.
Mum: Hi Frank, here are some biscuits for you and your friend.
Frank: Thanks Mum.
Ted: Where is mine?
Mum: Cant you get your own?
Ted: Yes but mum?
Mum: Look Ted, you know Frank can’t get biscuits and anyway he has
Frank smiles to Ted.
Ted and Mum walk out
Tim: Nice family
Frank: Hmm. Yes Mum is very nice and has supported me in having a
normal life but believes that one day I will be able.
Tim: What’s wrong with that?
Frank: False hopes. I have always accepted that this body is mine and
the amazing cure will never come so why wait?
Tim: Yes, sad. It’s a pity you’ll never be normal?
Frank: Don’t pity me, I may not be normal but this doesn’t mean I
can’t enjoy life, even sex.
Tim: Fair point. Five o’clock, I must go. Bye!
Scene 8: Family
Frank and his Mum are watching TV
Mum: Nice day frank?
Frank: Okay, the usual horrible day.
Mum: Nice Frank, mixing well with everyone?
Frank: Yes Mum.
Mum: Did you watch the news?
Frank: No, why?
Mum: There was an item about a child with Cerebral Palsy who was
awarded damages for the mistake at birth.
Frank: Like the cock-up at my birth?
Mum: Yes, he was awarded £20000.
Frank: Not much.
Mum: Yes but would it be worth having a go? We could do with the
money with all that extra clothes, food and equipment I have
Frank: Well, I do not remember it and unlike most people I believe
that disabilities are not that bad. Saying that it is the doctor’s
fault that I am Disabled, a better doctor and I could have been normal, what a horrible thought. Very confusing.
Mum: We could use the money to have an operation to make you
Frank: No Mum, you know my opinions on that.
Mum: I still think it will benefit you.
Frank: Did going white benefit Michael Jackson?
Frank: Never mind (chuckle) Never mind.
Scene 9: Diary
Frank is writing the day on his computer
Computer Monday September 5th 1989
What a day! Not bad for a severely handicapped child. I hate
that label, ain’t people with glasses handicapped? But they are normal. In English we discussed minority groups and mainly how black people are portrayed, in my opinion they moan too much, they have a good education, good jobs and are accepted by the media as normal but of course they want more! It is all right for black people to want more but not for disabled people, the charity of Britain. When it comes to human rights I’d rather be black than disabled.
I missed RE today because of Miss Eye. Shame, some Christians
were coming in and I wanted to prove God didn’t exist by
asking if he exists why am I disabled? Always gets them!
Miss Eye still didn’t realise that I don’t enjoy being called a
mank 24 hours a day. She says that because I am disabled I
expect not to be bullied therefore I am In the wrong. I thought schools condemned bullying not accepted it!
Tim is very nice, he treats me like I feel, normal and not what
I look like, Ugly. I know I am being harsh but I am Ugly, this does not mean I won’t get married or have children.
Its been a normal day! Tomorrow will be the same. Even with
my problems and morons like Nasher, I enjoy being disabled, I
really do! I enjoy being me:
The comments made in scene 9 regarding black people were not meant to cause offence but highlight the difference in public awareness between race and Disability issues. These comments are no longer supported by either Simon Stevens or Enable Enterprises since they are contrary to current equal
Between the lines
Simon Stevens gives an insight of the creation of Normality and the reasons behind it.
One September evening in 1991 I was in the back of a car on the way to Ready and Able, a sports club for People with Dysabilities in Horsham, when I had an idea. The idea was of a sit-com based on a person with Cerebral Palsy who ran a company at home. The next day I watched a programme about a group of students who wrote a play about a person with Cerebral Palsy, this made me determined to write my own play. A few days latter I began to write character list, as I did it seemed to turn into the play it is today.
I showed the play so far to the head of drama at Collyer’s 6th Form College, where I was studying and he agreed to put the play on. So over the next few days I wrote the first draft of Normality, then it was called Young and Able. In October 1991, I met the cast for the first and with their help extended the play into final version which was published.
Normality does not try to tell a story, only to provide a slice of life. The play has varied meanings from school life to the frustrations of trying to be normal. I renamed the play to normality since it seemed to provide a common denominator in all aspects of the play.
Many people have commented on the fact that the play seemed to have been written in anger. This is probably true since I wanted to portray what my school was like and after five years of being bullied you would expect a bit of resentment (wouldn’t you).
I choose Frank as the name of my main character after my imaginary identical twin brother. Frank was born when a friend saw me in the cinema and I made him believe that it wasn’t me, it was Frank! Normality seemed the ideal opportunity for Frank to have his first star role.
I did not use real names for legal reasons, for weeks I was scared of being sued (mainly by my brother). With fiction I was able to squeeze the thoughts, events and experiences of many weeks into one single day. Also fiction writing allowed me to stretch the truth to fit the play.
At points the play in very complex issue in a few paragraphs. Although somewhat strong stuff it is balanced out by some very witty remarks, my favourite is;
Tim So what is your handicap?
Frank Sorry, I don’t play golf
This witty remark shows how much Frank resents the word handicap which is expanded in scene 6. This is just one of my comments which tries to show the problems with disabled and non-disabled relations and how integration needs a lot of work. Bullying is a major part of the pay tries to explain that this is due to misunderstandings.
I have had much feedback from the play. Most people enjoyed the play and some found it very interesting. A small few found the play negative, I can
Understand how they get that idea and accept it is a valid point. I think those few are trying to find something in my play that does not exist and if they knew me better they would know what I meant. This is expected since with any subject there are always those who have a minority view to express including myself at times.
Collyer’s adapted the play for their performance so it was set in a mixed school since 80% of the cast was female although the main aspects remained. I was Involved with every minute of the play, through the weeks of rehearsals, set building and much more. I did not want to play Frank because I wanted to see how a non-disabled actor would deal with it and if I had played Frank it would allow the content of the play to work fully. In the last days before the premier I had heard and seen the play about fifty times and spent many 100s of hours just trying to make sure it did not misrepresent my ideology, I had enough and I was going slightly mad.
The premier was nervous especially since my step-dad was watching, I can not remember if I enjoyed that night but the other three times I watched it (and The audience) I did. Whenever I think about those four nights I get a great buzz of excitement and satisfaction that my words typed on this very same computer that I am using now had turned into a living piece of art. I can remember after the last performance walking from to the Indian Restaurant to the cast party in the icy cold at midnight thinking how unbelievable it had all been, that moment I shall always remember.
Over the years I have discovered more and more meaning in Normality. While many of the views are dated as I have become more aware of disability issues it still provides an historic insight into the views of a disabled teenager caugtht in an environment which deems him a freak. I am currently writing Normality 2, an insight into being a disabled student in Higher Education.
I hope this has answered many of the questions bout Normality, if you have any other questions please write to me
©1991 Simon Stevens