This review was written for mindshare, a creative community and online mental health publication. Reflections are by mindshare writers with lived experience of mental illness, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.
We gathered in a cute, little intimate setting in a room to the rear of the Pancake Kitchen, where the air was sweet from Maple Syrup and the mood palpably exciting. After a very short introduction, Kym bounded onto the stage with a warm smile and immediate presence, which drew his audience into his clutches instantly.
Kym, or Kymbo as he prefers, has an intellectual disability. This is part of who he is, but not all that he is, because Kym is exactly as his show describes: a veritable extravaganza of talent. He is a comedian, an actor, a dancer and a spoken word artist. He is a natural born entertainer. You can see the immense pleasure he draws from performing to a crowd and delighting his audience. And a glance around the room, confirmed that we were all transfixed by his relaxed and gentle nature.
While I wanted this review to focus on Kym’s talents and the songs he sang, and the comedy sketches; I am, of course, drawn to a celebration of ability, and I think it would be remiss of me not to speak of it. Kym talks to us about people thinking he is ‘less abled’, and their immediate underestimation of him. His story, however, is one of overcoming adversity, literally surviving a life-or-death situation: a story he tells with plenty of drama and mirth. His survival, he says, proves he is a fighter and now that he is treading the theatre boards and traveling the country, his life has so much more meaning.
Kym’s show is about disability and visibility, because as he reminds us, we should be listening to diverse voices. But even more so, this show is about joy. It is about enjoying every day and finding meaning in life, even through the most challenging times. Kym recounts how Covid-19 changed his life, how it threw him into isolation and his otherwise bustling social life quietened down. Ever resilient and adaptable, he rose and found ways to stay connected, to continue working, to continue smiling, because I get the feeling that Kym smiles a lot.
This extravaganza of entertainment and Kym’s personality and humility was so endearing, I figured the show was literally tonic for my cynical soul. I was uplifted and energized and felt so much a part of celebrating variety and humanity and realized that theatre shows often lack this. They lack a sense of authenticity and intimacy…they lack real, and in the age of reality TV and social media, real is rare. And Kym is as real as it gets.
It is difficult not to love Kym’s extravaganza, and Kym himself. The extravaganza is joyful, it is uplifting, it is enlightening and Kym, himself, is utterly resplendent. This show is powerful and has the capacity to change people’s lives and their perceptions. This show is not just entertainment (although it certainly is that), it is of social and civic service, providing representation to people with lived experience and elevating the voices of people with a disability – and we are all so much better for hearing Kym’s voice.