This February, performer Paul O’Donnell is premiering his new autobiographical show Dia-Beat-Es. Bringing to the stage his own personal experiences of managing diabetes throughout his life, as well as his newfound love of learning to DJ, we speak to Paul about what to expect from the upcoming tour.
Can you tell us about the show?
Dia-Beat-Es is a theatrical DJ set which aims to capture the experience of living as a type 1 diabetic since age 2 whilst mixing in some sweet sweet music such as Because I Got High (blood sugars) or Sweet Dreams. It is a party, it is a personal true story, it is moving at points and a rave at others. And it is from my honest perspective, the perspective of a Type 1 who is nowhere near a perfect Diabetic, or DJ. I think both of those things make me just that little bit more ‘human’.
What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Dia-Beat-Es?
Different audiences I hope will get different things from the show. Fellow Type 1 Diabetics I hope will see themselves reflected in a unique way. Family members, partners, carers, friends of type 1’s will find themselves appreciated. People who have no connection to Type 1 Diabetes will hopefully learn about the condition in a fun way – for many there is a real confusion with Type 2 diabetes, a real lack of understanding for the daily toll and drain this condition has on an individual and a lack of support for both Type 1 Diabeitcs, their family, friends and carers. Most of all I hope that everyone will have a fantastically spectacular, pancreas party of a night out that has real heart and a real desire to create a positive change for the 80% of Type 1 Diabetics who are not meeting their doctors three aims for improvement. Just imagine if 20% of GCSE maths students were just… passing. We’d be storming the gates of number 10.
What’s been something you learnt about DJing which surprised you?
How much of an art form it is. I guess I was naive coming into this about how much skill there is in DJ-ing well, how much musicality, how much creativity and knowledge about so many different elements. DJ’s, good DJ’s that don’t just press fade through to the next cue, are really impressive musicians. Creating a feel good experience for an individual or an original piece of musc via BPMs, loops, low or mid or high frequencies, quantizes and slips, FX and colour, reverbs, low cut echos, sample desks and sampling. I could go on. I don’t know if I’m a good DJ or not yet, but I’ve enjoyed learning about the skill behind an art-form I don’t think I fully appreciated before. I do now, and have noticed myself picking up on that skill if I go to a night-time establishment where a DJ is playing a lot more – “ah, they’re using the mobius FX”
The show explores the difficulties people with diabetes face with burnout. Any advice for how best people can support their friends, families and colleagues who are managing diabetes burnout?
It is difficult for me to answer as I don’t honestly think I have escaped ‘the burnout’. After 28 years of living with the condition it truly is exhausting. And I’d like to think I’m a rather mentally resilient individual. If there was one movement I’d like this show to inspire, it’s encouraging just five more people to share their burnout with their health-care professionals and work out in what ways it might be useful to get their support. I think the general support out there is not currently sufficient, but ‘the movement’ starts by you asking the question and then us demanding a suitable solution together. If you keep it in your head, that is where it will remain.
What’s next for you?
Personally: I really appreciate and value my dietician, and, through this show, I have uncovered a reason to speak to her about my burnout. Initially for research purposes but soon enough because it felt a little bit healthier than pretending it didn’t exist. We’ve formed a little duo and have occasional email updates where she spurs me on to keep going. I appreciate not everyone will be so fortunate, there are diabetic specialists in my past whom I’ve not been so enthralled by, but I think there is no harm in at least raising it as a thing for you.
Professionally: I guess I will dream up another concept that requires learning another completely unrealistic skill set from scratch. I am a firm believer in finding ways to challenge myself and my practice.
Dia-Beat-Es is on tour from 1st Feb – 1st April. For more information, please visit the website.