How do you make disability sexy? This is one of several pre-planned questions that serve as ice-breakers between the audience and our trio of queer, disabled performers. It is, essentially, an informal thesis statement for Access Me, presented by the Boys in Chairs Collective.
Created and performed by Andrew Gurza, Ken Harrower and Frank Hull, this immersive show provides improvisational interactivity within a tightly structured set-up. The ultimate goal is to centre and demystify the sexuality of disabled people—to grant us access to their sensual inner lives.
When first entering the venue, each audience member is offered an optional lanyard to wear to indicate they consent to interaction with the performers. These episodes aren’t too demanding, requiring brief discussion and some physical contact, often in the form of playful, guided, entirely mild role-play.
Revealing sexual fetishes, fantasies, disappointments and encounters both beautiful and harrowing; the three invite us into their personal sphere, offering the opportunity to see and understand them as sexual beings. One scene involves props—both practical and fabulous!—in a step-by-step tutorial on how certain physical challenges can be acknowledged and addressed.
An intriguing notion resonating throughout is the care and effort that goes into the facilitation of sexual activity. From an abstract distance, it may seem arduous and mood-killing, yet the attention and consideration required has the potential to heighten intimacy.
Director Jonathan Seinen and set designer Michelle Tracey provide a few theatrical surprises with a series of coloured curtains that pull back to reveal unexpected pockets of space. There’s a sense of energy and momentum as the three performers zip about in their motorized wheelchairs. A stylized dance with these machines—a portrait of connection through movement and touch—feels both grounded and transcendent.
Of all the production elements, Julia Howman’s video projections seem the least fully integrated. The sex-chat app visuals are purposeful, but some of the more artsy footage that accompanies their stories is unnecessary, even distracting.
The crucial dynamic of Access Me is a carefully maintained balance between vulnerability and control. Offering us a glimpse into a private space, they assertively define the terms of their engagement with us. Even when the structure of the performance feels contrived, the men themselves never seem anything other than authentic. Each of them brings abundant humour and an idiosyncratic charisma to the table.