FringeReview Scotland 2014
This is all about a disabled artist – Robert Softley Gale and a disables wimmer – Joe Brown. Robert takes us through his and Joe’s experiences growing up, Robert as an artist and Joe as a swimmer but both with cerebral palsy. Using their personal experiences as a launch pad they question how we allow sport to be classified, admired and inspirational within the context of society and their disabilities.
Robert is the disabled artist who went to a special school. From his challenging of authority at 7 years of age over fish fingers to realising he too could occupy the stage his sister was, he takes us through the birth and the sports days of his childhood. Joe, on the other hand, being at a mainstream school was discovered to be good at swimming. From that realisation he went on to make various swim squads before giving it up because he was sick of it. Robert also takes us through his recent court case on behalf of disabled people against a well known Glaswegian LGBT club. He opines he is just a normal Joe whilst Joe suggests, having given up, he wants to be back into the pool and is preparing for this Joe to get to Rio. Both have tremendous stories to tell but as they say, it is up to us if they inspire us.
Right from the beginning this is crisp and sharp. The writing is both witty and erudite. The crudeness is used for great comic effect whilst also illuminating the absurdity of some of our “caring attitudes”. There are points of real poignancy when Robert admits he does stay at home rather than go out as some of the attitudes he faces in the street can be too much to bear.
Both Joe and Robert are tremendous raconteurs. Their stories ensure that you are always fully engaged. What is equally remarkable is the BSL interpreter and Audio describer who are on stage all the time. This is as Robert himself would say an equality production. Both of these participants in the drama are fully involved and the integration stops feeling like a nod to equalities and becomes part of the performance very quickly. the use of video and even the close captions become part of an overall faultless performance.
The podiums used as well as the wheelchair slalom are fantastic. All are well used and the audience participation is well constructed, thought through and effective. This is a high end production which aims to target its audience by engaging with its mind rather than its prejudice. I was totally involved from the beginning and the dry wit, sending themselves up and the equalities industry was spot on.
Robert Softley Gale has had a reputation for quality work; this further enhances it. The delay to the performances hitting the stage was due to the court case that he and his husband fought. He did so, not to be a hero, but because he believed that the voice of the disabled should be heard. They fought because the Equality Act must mean something other than a commitment. It must be usable in every day life. Gale proves that his art is down to him being an artist and not a disabled one. He appears happy to wear that disabled tag through solidarity with his kith and kin but he is equally a part of the artistic community. He is an internationally renowned artist for Scotland because of his art. With Tell me What Giving Up Look Like he continues to prove that his voice is one we ought to be artistically hearing.