‘Blue Badge Bunch’ at VAULT Festival review – Interactive gameshow encourages audiences to simulate disability


You’ll probably have never seen a gameshow like this before. Self-described as the “disability Taskmaster”, Blue Badge Bunch sees two disabled contestants partake in four mini-games designed to simulate the experiences of disabled people. It’s silly, laid-back and light-hearted fun for a weekend afternoon.

Oh, and it’s interactive too. Every audience member is handed a whiteboard to join in the challenges as well, which range from drawing a picture using your feet to guessing the price of different assistive equipment. With the exception of the equipment game and another Pictionary-style game, the games are designed to mimic physical disabilities, and while I appreciate ‘learning by doing’ is a good way for children to learn, I am also hesitant about both children and adults being encouraged to imagine what it’s like to be disabled. So often this inadvertently implies disability is a costume people can put on and take on and off whenever, or worse, it can inspire pity when many of us just want understanding and acceptance – empathy instead of sympathy.

Even one of the show’s contestants, autistic comedian Mark Nicholas, speaks about his initial hesitation around the idea of getting non-disabled people to imagine being disabled when it was pitched to him by host Benny Shakes, who has cerebral palsy. As our presenter, he does well to keep the audience animated and energetic with lots of questions asked of the audience (every round he will ask us if we have heard of the minigame, even when he likely knows we do not), as do Nicholas and fellow contestant Variety D, who is visually impaired. It’s hard to ignore the fact, however, that the audience responses in the show are fairly muted and require some prompting. Perhaps it was just this one crowd, but when I notice that only one poster for the show describes this as something “for kids” (nothing similar is on their VAULT Festival webpage), I wonder if the show being more vocal in being a family production will garner a few more youngsters to make the interactions far more exciting.

After all, adults going into this show expecting the host to be harsh, blunt and unforgiving like Greg Davies is on Taskmaster will likely be left a tad disappointed. I certainly was, but it makes the case for production company Ingenious Fools to create a version for an adult audience. While this family friendly version takes a gentler, easygoing approach to the disability taboo, an adult version could be a lot more provocative, poking fun at the awkwardness which so often surrounds conversations around disability. In this iteration, however, Blue Badge Bunch is a commendable group effort raising some much-needed disability awareness.

Blue Badge Bunch is now playing at VAULT Festival until 5 March. All performances are relaxed and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted.

Production Images: Ingenious Fools.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘Blue Badge Bunch’ for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this article and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.

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