‘Thalidomide Acts’ – tells the life story of disabled artist Mat Fraser

Black and white photograph of man

Mat Fraser by Photographer Ashley Savage

‘Thalidomide Acts’ is the first outcome of the ‘Electric Bodies’ strand of D4D, a cycle of transcription poems based on a series of interviews with the performer Mat Fraser, who recently starred to great acclaim in Northern Broadsides production of ‘Richard III’.

The poems cover Fraser’s early life, his experiences as someone with a thalidomide impairment, his time as drummer in a punk band and his early years in Graeae Theatre, his work in television and his move to the United States, where he became a leading figure in the New York burlesque scene.

Fraser describes the genesis of such stage shows as ‘Sealboy: Freak’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and his work in the top US TV series ‘American Horror: Freak Show’. He analyses the barriers in mainstream television to a performer such as him, in demand if they need a freak but never cast as the guy next door.

Along the way, ‘Thalidomide Acts’ takes in martial arts, the UK fetish scene, freak shows and disability activism. Fraser gives an intelligent analysis of what it takes to move between these different communities.

You can download a PDF copy of the cycle of transcription poems by clicking on ‘Thalidomide Acts’

More information about my work in transcription poetry can be found in the conference paper ‘Transcription poetry as a vehicle for documenting the lives of disabled people’. You can download a PDF copy by clicking on DSC Paper 2010 D2

Previous examples of my transcription poetry work can be found on Disability Arts Online

Other outcomes of this piece of work include archive materials such as sound recordings and interview transcripts. We also plan readings. With its distinctive voice and clear narrative line, transcription poetry lends itself well to live reading. I have produced an edited version of ‘Thalidomide Acts’ for this purpose.







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