Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Am-dram in the raw as a local company makes a foot-in-mouth attempt to deliver inclusivity to its exclusive stage production of ‘My Left Foot’.
Kirktoon Amateur Dramatic Society is grappling with an increasingly equal equalities agenda as it prepares its seventy-sixth successive entry for the Scottish Amateur Drama Association’s annual one-act play competition. And anyone who has ever taken part in the real-life Scottish Community Drama Association’s annual jamboree will know from bitter experience that winning is so much more important than those mere matters of life and death.
But Kirktoon have come up with a devilishly cunning plan to create a stage version of the Oscar winning ‘My Left Foot’. However, there’s only one fly in this pot of politically correct ointment – they’ve no disabled actors. Ebullient Amy rides to the rescue with her map through the inclusivity maze, but will CP Chris play ball? Can able-bodied Grant arrest his solipsism, will Sheena ever learn to stop mothering people and is there anyone apart from Gillian (Grade Three Tap and Modern) who can coach movement to this crowd? Toss in a couple of love triangles and toss out political correctness and you have the perfect recipe for a conflagration behind the curtains.
My Left Right Foot is a collaboration between Birds of Paradise Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland and is a part of the impressive Made In Scotland programme at this year’s Fringe. With a punchy, racy and daring script from Robert Softley Gale and eminently singable tunes from Claire McKenzie, Scott Gilmour and Richard Thomas, it’s a high energy ninety minute examination of the issue of inclusivity and a lesson in how to parody and deconstruct the stereotypes you so often see in am-dram societies.
It’s full on from the start with a series of foot-in-mouth remarks that make Boris Johnson’s latest utterances about burkas and letter-boxes look like a vicar engaging in polite, tea party conversation. But each of our am-dram group’s toe-curling and clumsy remarks, coupled with some snappy lyrics in the opening numbers, rams home the message that most people end up “making a pig’s arse of the concept of inclusivity”.
With the audience nicely on the hook, the story then plays out, with poignancy and pathos slowly replacing the challenging and decidedly un-PC language that hits you like a cold shower in the first twenty minutes. And a uniformly top class cast keeps your attention throughout. Richard Conion’s wimpish Ian is present in every am-dram society, as is Gail Watson’s domineering, but essentially vulnerable Sheena. Dawn Sievewright as the man-eating Gillian is imposing and John McLarnon’s narcissistic Grant is spot-on – there’s one of those in most groups too.
Toss in the impressive Matthew Duckett as Chris, signer/actor Natalie MacDonald’s charismatic Nat and Gavin Whitworth as the laconic, dry Gav and it’s a top-flight crew that keeps up the pace but allows plenty of space for the pathos to emerge and for the audience to think about their own attitude and approach to the challenges of inclusivity. And there’s plenty of thinking to do as the production leaves important issues unresolved, wisely avoiding the usual “everyone lives happily ever after ending” supplied by the bulk of musical theatre shows.
This is first class piece of theatre, that just happens to be a musical. And very funny. It has an exciting, daring script, catchy songs, actor/singers at the top of their game, positive staging, a set redolent of any fading village hall, crisp direction and no punches pulled. All this and the production was fully signed and sur-titled, with the latter running flat-out to keep pace with the on-stage shenanigans. This exciting show comes highly recommended for anyone, although the frequent use of strong language means you need to be over 16 to enjoy it.