Discover how a learning disabled artist has the power to lead the creation of her ‘Perfect Show’.

By: May. 25, 2024
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Review: PERFECT SHOW FOR RACHEL, Barbican Pit Produced by Zoo Co and Improbable, this is not your show, or like any show you might have seen before.

Perfect Show for Rachel is just what it says, a perfect show directed by Rachel O'Mahony, who is learning disabled, living in a care home, and exploring her creativity. So anything can happen, and no two shows are the same.

When we enter the space it already feel welcoming, inclusive, and joyous. Rachel herself is sitting at a desk which has many buttons, each linking up to the title of a segment she's approved to be included.

This revised version now gives Rachel more scope to shape the kind of experience she wants, with new material and recasting from its 2022 run.

Perfect Show for Rachel cast. Photo credit: Ikin Yum

As her sister, and Zoo Co's artistic director, Flo, explains at the start, Rachel likes many things, and this show reflects what she likes. It isn't set up to please audiences, or critics, and Rachel, as we hear later, doesn't care about reviews or what people think.

Making the show as accessible as possible, there are screens and projected text included in Stella Backman's set, which looks like a playroom full of pastel colours and Rachel's name written over and over. There's a table, chairs, an inset shelf with a lamp, a raised area for the musicians. There is live BSL signing for unscripted moments.

Although Rachel is quite likely to repeat items or leave long pauses between them to chat to cast members, watch herself "on the telly", or change her mind, the evening progressed in a manner which covered dance routines (one featuring Rachel and Flo's mum, Wendy), songs (HallelujahPerfect Day, and others), chaotic routines and gleeful sketches, as well as video inserts.

Photographs of Flo and Rachel as children punctuate Flo's solo on My Soul Sister, and Rachel's life in her care home is included in video of her best friends there. She also appeared very excited at our show about the press night afterparty, and constantly brought it up, as well as becoming truly involved in all the proceedings which revolve around her.

Perfect Show for Rachel - Wendy, Rachel and Flo O'Mahony. Photo credit: Ikin Yum

Live scribe Austin Yang who types Rachel's words as she talks during the show, demonstrates a lovely singing voice, while musical director Josh Goodman has good comedy rapport with Improbable's lanky Lee Simpson and Zoo Co's lively Fleur Rooth. Sara Dawood and Nick Gilbert (who also designed the sound) have boundless energy.

Rachel's perfect show is a delight from beginning to end, making you double up with laughter, and feel the freedom of a show which has taken years of love, energy and determination to build. As we are asked to shout at numerous points tonight, "well done, Rachel."

With the director having complete autonomy, and each show being her own unique creation, Perfect Show for Rachel challenges ableism on every front. It's a flag-waver for accessibility, friendship, and devoted sisters.

Whether we like it or not (and we liked it a lot), this is a Perfect Show for, and by, Rachel, and it celebrates the best of what performance can be.

Perfect Show for Rachel continues at Barbican Centre, The Pit, until 9th June 2024.

Photo credit: Ikin Yum


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