An or­di­nary bloke

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

LIFE isn’t all about su­per­men over­com­ing the odds and happy end­ings, Ant Towler says.

The play­wright, ac­tor and direc­tor is look­ing to throw new light on what it’s like to live with a dis­abil­ity in his first live the­atre show De­fens­abil­ity open­ing at the Maid­ment The­atre’s Mus­grove Stu­dio on April 9.

‘‘I wanted to show a dayto-day kind of guy – not a su­per­man – some­one who does work, goes home and has a beer.’’

Much like him­self, he says. The 90-minute com­edy fol­lows dis­abled man Kelly Den­ton, played by Mr Towler, who aims to steal a Par­a­lympian’s spot on the New Zealand team after the ath­lete stole his fi­ancee.

It is an ‘‘anti-rom-com’’ which sets out to break­down the mis­con­cep­tions peo­ple carry about dis­abled peo­ple.

The play is one born out of his own ex­pe­ri­ences with peo­ple’s of­ten un­in­ten­tional prej­u­diced com­ments, he says.

Mr Towler has cere­bral palsy – a con­di­tion which af­fects his move­ment and pos­ture but one which he doesn’t want to de­fine him.

‘‘One of my friends says she for­gets I’m dis­abled be­cause I’m so open about it,’’ the 38-year-old says. ‘‘If you bring it up as a joke when you meet some­one you’re open­ing it up to the per­son and they talk about it.’’

Bring­ing dis­abil­ity into ev­ery­day con­ver­sa­tion is im­por­tant be­cause a lot of peo­ple are afraid of the sub­ject, he says.

Mem­bers of the public have ap­proached Mr Towler and tried to ‘‘faith heal’’ him in all places from fast food joints to the mid­dle of busy streets.

But most of the play’s ref­er­ences to his own ex­pe­ri­ences are quite sub­tle.

Mr Towler’s char­ac­ter goes to a bar in the open­ing scene where he is told the only ac­ces­si­ble toi­let is a staff one which will re­quire him to be su­per­vised by a staff mem­ber if he uses it.

‘‘It’s all about find­ing that line. I didn’t want to be in peo­ple’s faces and bash ev­ery­one over the head with ‘this is what it’s like to be dis­abled’.’’

Mr Towler has writ­ten and di­rected eight short films, in­clud­ing Roll­mance about a dis­abled cou­ple who set out to con­sum­mate their re­la­tion­ship.

His at­ti­tude to­wards his dis­abil­ity is one that stems from grow­ing up around mainly able-bod­ied peo­ple, he says.

‘‘I didn’t know any other way of deal­ing with it. Typ­i­cally I don’t have much to do with the dis­abled com­mu­nity – I’ve just al­ways found it very lim­it­ing.’’

The prospect of tack­ling dis­abil­ity on stage wasn’t daunt­ing at first when he be­gan writ­ing the play three years ago but he ad­mits he has grown a lit­tle ner­vous about peo­ple’s pos­si­ble re­ac­tions. It will be shown at the fully ac­ces­si­ble Mus­grove Stu­dio, where Mr Towler first per­formed 25 years ago.

De­fens­abil­ity, di­rected by cen­tral Auck­land res­i­dent An­jula Prakash, runs from April 9 to 13 at The Maid­ment’s Mus­grove Stu­dio at the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s city cam­pus.

Go to maid­ment.auck land.ac.nz/uoa or call 308 2383 for tick­ets. Door sales are avail­able.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Tack­ling mis­con­cep­tions: Ant Towler has writ­ten the com­edy De­fens­abil­ity show­ing at the Mus­grove Stu­dio which he stars in as a dis­abled man on a cru­sade to win back his fi­ancee.

Visit auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to see Mr Towler’s film

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