I first met Mandy Colleran twenty six years ago in Liverpool and here we are, collaborating on National Theatre Wales’s production of In Water I’m Weightless…
I’m grateful to my friend and fellow writer Sean Lusk for alerting me to the following article from The Guardian Review on 6th July 2012: Jake Arnott writing about the performer and cultural activist Mandy Colleran:
Mandy Colleran by Jake Arnott
Mandy Colleran is an actor currently in rehearsal for the National Theatre Wales’s production of In Water I’m Weightless. I’ve known her for years as a friend and something of an inspiration. I doubt she’ll take much to the term “hero”, and I’m not so certain about it myself. Because there are dangers of applying “heroism” to people with disabilities – it is often used to portray a “tragic but brave” life, and she’s fought against that for decades as a campaigner for equal rights and empowerment. I’m sure she’d always prefer a ramp to a pedestal. But I admire her, as an actor and an activist, but above all as a bon vivant.
Colleran goes everywhere and sees everything. She gets out so much more than I do – to the theatre, to talks and concerts. I suffer from the writer’s vice of withdrawing from the world. She makes that world accessible to me. She has highly tuned cultural antennae, and always seems to know what’s going on.
Full of ideas and opinions, she is constantly engaged in the life around her – as a participant, not just an observer. She has an insatiable appetite for books and a direct and easy manner of criticism. She would be ideal for a review show. And she has an explosive sense of humour, with a laugh that sometimes can be heard throughout most of Clerkenwell.
In any struggle against the odds Colleran often reminds me that we can do it on our own terms. One winter the snow lay inches deep in central London. I was finding it hard to get around and was suddenly possessed by the thought that she might need some assistance, if only to pick up some shopping or something. I phoned her and heard that familiar scouse voice cutting through a cacophony of shouting. She wasn’t stuck indoors, she was at a demo in the West End, taking action as usual as I tiptoed cautiously along the icy pavement.
• Jake Arnott’s The House of Rumour is published by Sceptre.