Adam Pearson opened up in an interview this week to talk about his new BBC Three show, Adam Pearson: Freak Show.
Pearson suffers from a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis which causes non-cancerous tumours to grow on his nerve endings. The most obvious place of growth for Pearson is his face.
His new show is a documentary exploring the concept, execution and consequences of modern “freak shows”. It is a highly controversial topic with polarizing views. This form of “entertainment” has a dark history but Pearson’s documentary goes to show that “freak shows” in the modern age can be quite liberating for those involved and they have helped him feel more comfortable with his own condition.
It all began when he was offered employment in a freak show. He turned down the offer and started out making his documentary. He said:
“I thought I would get half way through filming the documentary and I’d think this is terrible”
Little did he know, the barbaric image of “freak shows” most people picture isn’t a true representation of what the performances have become. Of the people involved, he said:
“The vast majority of (the workers) absolutely adore it, make money out of their differences and gain awareness. (…) It gives (people watching) freedom to front up to it and gives them permission to stare and be curious. Then you have the conversation and they all get over it. One you start talking people become more aware. If it was me on stage with no explanation or extrapolation that would be an abject failure.”
This platform for conversation has become so important for awareness and acceptance of conditions that most people wouldn’t be exposed to in any other situation.
When Pearson was a child he was bullied and called the elephant man. He says that by owning the names and the labels, you can take the power back. He said:
“Whether I like it or not that’s the comparison people are going to make, so rather than run from it I took ownership of it. Because once you do that, it loses all its powers. History is full of minority groups who have taken ownership of words that were previously used as slurs to remove their power – and this was no different.’
After finishing up with the documentary, Pearson returned to the UK and performed at the Vaxhaull Theatre. He essentially did an informative monologue about having neurofibromatosis. He called his performance a “cabaret monologue”. He told reporters:
“It was liberating and terrifying all at same time. I’m not no means jacking in job and running off to the circus. But to go to America and learn what I did and come back and do nothing would have been a waste.”