Keep Calm I’m Only Diabetic
Reviewed – 9th June 2018
“the funnier words are at points swallowed and the humour of the writing isn’t always brought out”
Jon-Sel Gourkan has Type 1 diabetes, the type that no one talks about, the type that is unpreventable, incurable and potentially life threatening. This show is his response to dealing with a lifetime of ignorance that has cost him careers, relationships, living spaces and his mental health. ‘Hypos’ have him slurring his words, swiping yes to everyone on Tinder, ranting inappropriately on Facebook, doing and saying things that he is not in control of in an extreme bodily response to a lack of sugar. “It’s ruining everything for me,” he confesses. Over the course of the show we are whisked through his worlds of professional footballing, pop-stardom and customer service jobs, some of which are more accepting than others of his condition.
Jon-Sel talks about his tendency to use humour to cope: “In adverse times, I laugh,” he says. And indeed the script is full of humour, couching the difficulties diabetes has made him face in witty wording and an infectious optimism. Unfortunately, frequently these moments fail to land. Jon-Sel’s comic timing is not quite right so that the funnier words are at points swallowed and the humour of the writing isn’t always brought out. His impressions suffer no such problem. They are sharp, well observed and delivered with ease.
But this is not just about humour, and some of Jon-Sel’s more serious moments lack impact, lost in his apparent inability to stop ‘performing’. Even as he impresses upon the audience the fact that this is a very real issue, that this narrative is the truth of his everyday life, he is still acting, undermining the genuineness of the narrative. His hypo moments, however, are some of the most impactful moments of the play, and are deeply affecting, as he jumps from playful performance mode to barely intelligible attack mode, begging for sugar through a mouth that won’t articulate. The piece does take us to an unexpectedly dark place, where Gourkan is dealing with alcoholism, depression and loss of self, and a more genuine delivery at this point would supply these moments with the impact that they deserve.
Ultimately, Gourkan’s apparent goal is achieved. I leave with a considerably greater understanding of Type 1 diabetes (which I will never again confuse with Type 2 diabetes), its symptoms and its severity – all made accessible via his personal story of battling the condition. Gourkan himself is incredibly likeable, energised, warm and playful, so that weaker moments of the piece are more easily forgivable than they might otherwise be.
‘Keep Calm, I’m only diabetic’ is a fun and informative show, that sheds light on a deeply under-discussed medical condition. Greater development could help it go beyond this and really access the emotional depth of the piece, taking it to a higher level, but it is still an enjoyable and accessible performance, from which I learnt a lot!
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Keep Calm I’m Only Diabetic