The 'wobbly' comedienne comes to Windsor

Published: 30 Nov 2012 09:300 comments

Self confidence is something award-winning comedienne and former Grange Hill actress Francesca Martinez has in abundance. Her positive nature is palpable across the phone and in the words she speaks.

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She is a force to be reckoned with. But this wasn't always the case for the 'wobbly' funny woman who spent much of her teenage years battling to mask the physical signs of cerebral palsy in a bid to feel 'normal'.

Playing Windsor Firestation on Saturday, December 8, audiences can listen to the captivating comic bare her soul and challenge the concept of normality now she has made peace with her body.

"It's a very personal show and being 'wobbly' [her word for cerebral palsy] I had more of an intense relationship with the world normality. It haunted me throughout my life. Then I thought, 'Hang on I have never met anyone normal... what is normal?' And that thought changed my whole life.

"The sort of pressures we're all under, no matter what body we have, to conform, look a certain way, I think it's really unhealthy and I think it's crazy these unattainable ideals are thrust in our faces. So it's about sticking two fingers up at it and thinking differently."

She added: "My disability didn't get better or go away, but it ceased to be a problem. Life is a gift and we can forget that, get caught up in these silly trivialities. It's such a shame we waste time worrying about these things. It's celebrating diversity. One of the hardest things is to say 'I like myself'."

Explaining how she fell into comedy, Francesca says: "I think in my life I have always used humour as I was scared people would pity me. I think I thought if I was funny people would respect me. I developed a strong sense of humour and when I met people for the first time I tried to be funny. It became quite a big part of who I was."

Her father was to be the person to push her towards her dream. A scriptwriter, he wrote a film with her starring as the comic lead character and, although she never ended up taking the part, it all fell into place. She added: "Now it feels like the most natural thing in the world." Playing Rachel Burns in TV's Grange Hill she brought diversity into the mainstream and praised the writers for creating a character where her disability wasn't the issue, and she was just 'one of the girls'.

As well as comedy, she writes and gives motivational speeches - using her status to highlight issues, such as cuts in disability living allowance. She said: "I don't think I would ever make a good politician, I like my sleep way too much, but I definitely am interested in speaking up on issues I feel are important. If I can use that to give a voice to people who don't have one that's brilliant. I will definitely try to fight the cutbacks and anything I believe in. It's a great privilege to be invited to speak, but I can't see myself in Number 10!"

See Francesca on Saturday, December 8, at Windsor Firestation. Tickets are £14 from www.firestationartscentre.com or on 01753 866865.

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