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Jack Cray - The 'epileptic actor' seizing the chance to share his Epilepsy story



30 April 2019

Actor with epilepsy, Jack Cray, talks about his journey with epilepsy and why he devised his one man show, Jack Cray: The Fittest Guy On The Street.

Epilepsy was brand new

‘Damn it! There goes the free bus pass.’ That was genuinely the first thing I said when my driving license dropped through the letterbox on 6th February 2016, two years after I’d signed that gut wrenching Declaration of Surrender for Medical Reasons form.

I signed it when I was 17, having only passed my driving test three weeks beforehand. At the time, taking away such a big symbol of freedom so prematurely was almost impossible to stomach. In hindsight to be fair I had just given the unscheduled world-premier of my acclaimed ‘Boy does face plant followed by two minutes of freestyle floor gymnastics’ routine. That’ll be more familiar to those in the Epilepsy Society as a Generalised Tonic-Clonic. 

Epilepsy was brand new in my family at that point. Suddenly all of them were now living with a teenager who had a brain less stable than a tower of jelly on a waterbed, and none of us really knew why what would happen, happened.

Pure and undiluted Jack

This is why my One Man Show, Jack Cray: The Fittest Guy On The Street exists. I used my background in drama to work out what it means to have Epilepsy and how I’ve come to be part of this surprisingly large community. I started the project at university as a way of getting my thoughts out and trying to understand them. It was pure and undiluted Jack, which is still at the core of my show as it stands today.

There were things I’m sure many people in a similar position have gone through but may have sadly not felt like they could talk about them including depression and isolation. The first time I said that in front of an audience was like doing a bungee jump, taking a massive leap of faith and hoping they supported me.

Jack Cray performing in his one man show

Finding positivity

But, also like many I didn’t want to invite people to come and watch me mope around. So I learned to find ways to look at my life with epilepsy positively: I’ve tasted loads of flavoured teas through various fundraiser coffee mornings for a start. I’ve also met some brilliant medical researchers and helped them develop exciting diagnosis techniques. I’m saving the rest for you to find out in my show!

A brilliant example of epilepsy positivity appeared at last year’s Epilepsy Society conference in the form of Rev. Bob Mayo (If you haven’t heard or seen him perform his poem, hunt it down on the society’s Instagram!). He spoke about how his epilepsy has led to him meeting new people and discovering new places after having seizures while out running and waking up without a clue in the world to where he was.

It takes a lot of work but when you do find that positive spin on your epilepsy things get better, with my spin being that I could create a theatrical show about it which could educate but also entertain.

A 'normal brain'

As well as my story, the show tracks epilepsy medication across time which is a hot topic in this age of cannabis oil and Sodium Valproate. As well as that I look inside the complex goings on of a ‘normal’ brain (if such a thing exists) versus a seizing one. As strange as it sounds for a one man show, I’m joined onstage by myself and my neurologist.

It’s forty-five minutes of fun and food-for-thought. If you’re recently diagnosed or know someone who is this show may be incredibly useful for you.

Brighton Fringe

You can catch my show in 2019 at:

  • Brighton Fringe Festival on the 12th, 14th and 15th May at 7:30pm in the Spiegeltent: Bosco.
  • The Dome, University of Derby on 15th and 16th July at 7:15pm.
  • Greater Manchester Fringe Festival on the 18th, 19th and 20th July at 6pm in The Empty Space (formally Footlights House).

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The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Epilepsy Society.