Sometimes it’s difficult to write a review but, as this production highlights, I am fortunate to have the ability to do so without asking for assistance. Robert Softley in association with the Arches has brought a show to the Fringe that shines a light on Impairment.
Impairment, whether it be physical, mental or even both, is a subject which continues to be at the heart of the fringe as the debate on accessibility to venues continues. It’s important that shows of this calibre allow the story of those who have impairments to be heard on the biggest platform possible.
Softley does this in an emotional, challenging and above all humorous way through his production. Partly autobiographical, we learn all about Robert’s life growing up with Cerebral Palsy, a condition he has had since birth. Robert starts the show off by discussing his speech impairment as though almost offering an apology it transpires he is actually offering a deal, if you don't understand what he just said, ask him and he will repeat it. This really disarms the audience and puts everyone at ease.
What follows is a play which intersperses Softley’s story with those of other people with impairments whom he has interviewed. To do this it uses the simple device that, when he appears sitting in an easy-chair on the raised stage he isn't Robert, but the various men and women who have chosen to share their stories with him.
This is a challenging piece of theatre which asks the audience to open their hearts just a little bit and try to understand those that are different from themselves. With a clever and charming script, a performance that is full of energy and never condescending Softley delivers a play which has much to offer. Its use of beautiful photography really adds emotion and visual stimulation to a simple set and sharp lighting.
Softley’s message of equality and inclusion for all is pretty self evident within the first twenty minutes and the messages repetition can get a bit graining as by sitting in the audience you have already accepted his message. Its a striking realisation that when you walk out of the theatre and join the hordes of other people walking around the pleasance courtyard you're just a little more self aware and that alone is a tremendous achievement for a piece of theatre.
This is a play with real passion behind it and Softley is a strong, talented and beautiful person for bringing these stories to the stage. His voice is one of many that ask the question, if these spasms could speak what would they say? get down to the pleasance to find out.