Written & Performed by Ellen Renton
Right now, we’re living avatars of ourselves, no flesh or skin, just an outward projection to the world and the expectations put upon us. To cut it short, in Ellen Renton words, people only watch, they don’t see. For some, their lives are weighed, commented and looked upon as artefacts in a museum, or placed under the microscope in ways most of us will never experience. For disabled athlete Ellen Renton, there isn’t a woman behind the condition to onlookers. There isn’t a purpose behind the biological machine, she’s an inspiration, a hero, but she’s just a woman attempting to live up to the societal pressures put upon her, and she’s tired of hearing about her bravery and inspirational attributes.
This is not to say Renton takes no pride in her ability, far from it, a great deal of Within Sight’s structure stems from her persistence at sport, the natural drive behind her determination to run, to compete. Renton’s writing centres around the failure to secure a place within the Paralympics team for Great Britain, the echoing acceptance time a repetitious droning in the background of the production.
Every four years, for three weeks, this countries perception change, and we act as though ableism is a non-existent presence for this period. Yet, here we sit in buildings which may provide access for wheelchairs, or perhaps other obvious needs, but fail to recognise that enough isn’t being done to accommodate. Renton draws humour into the script, partially to ease the audience, somewhat as a jab at how it has to be incorporated for the audience to breakdown their judgments and listen. Poetry in motion, Renton’s recitation on the move, as she performs warm-up routines and small sprints, has a metaphorical hammering of words, a reinforcement.
The written aspect of the production leaves some gravitas by the door, a skimming of the surface seems to pervade a superficial nature on occasion. Then again, this seems to be inherent of Renton’s intention. She isn’t here to preach or alter the mindset of the audience. She’s here to be seen, to be heard on her terms, not in a melodramatic fashion, that’s the audience’s take away, not hers.
The nuances of balancing what occurs live on stage, with the projection, is structured to the minutest detail. Renton times her actions perfectly, synchronising with Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi’s video design sublimely. It flows, allowing for the monologue to gain traction as our eyes have an extra dimension to adjust too, culminating in a haze as Renton describes the simple act of crossing the road, a task which drags itself into eternity for her. Blurring the screen, accentuating David Devereux’s sound design, this feeling of isolation and frustration at what many perceive to be a monotonous task, an almost split reaction for those with clear vision.
A rare production, Within Sight’s purpose, isn’t for the audience to clap themselves on the back for surviving an hours sob-story. Nor is a self-congratulatory culture ticket for viewers to feel smug about. It’s Renton’s outlet of emotions, of frustrations and experiences, and that hopefully rather than watching, with the intent to forget by the following morning, we have instead been seeing this talented woman, who displays not only an obvious physical ability but a skill with the spoken word.