Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – until 4 March 2016
There is a layer of magic of the theatrical kind to Robert Softley Gale’s Purposeless Movements for Birds of Paradise Theatre Company, at the Traverse for a limited run as part of its Scottish touring.
It’s partly a sleight of theatrical hand, as he manipulates elements of dance, music, performance, reportage and stand-up comedy into a piece that is all theatre. On stage there might be four actors, but as the director and writer, it is his production to deliver with a resounding and satisfyingly well-aimed kick.
Just to emphasise the point, the four start off at the front of the bare stage and, ignoring both the fourth wall and their various levels of speech impediment, announce their status as actors in no uncertain terms. They aren’t messing around for kicks, you understand, this is what they do to earn money.
This story, then, is theirs. This celebration of being male and understanding of having cerebral palsy; this unfolding of anecdote and cripple jokes; this understanding of being male and celebration of having cerebral palsy; this anarchic exploration of movement and language.
Laurence Clark brings his stand-up comedy to the table, rippling through jokes which would be uncomfortable in anyone else’s mouth. He has a thoroughly knowing and complicit glitter in his eye, one which leads you to trust him, even as he throws your own prejudices up for question.
Colin Young is more low-key in his approach but gives a poised performance, recalling high powered anecdotes of government advisory panels and the politicians whose prejudices cut through their attempts at being inclusive.
Colin Young, Laurence Clark, Jim Fish and Pete Edwards. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic
Dance runs all through the whole piece, but comes into real focus when Jim Fish is dressing with the help of BSL translator, Amy Cheskin. Indeed, she is ubiquitous – sometimes merging into the background to translate the live music, at others literally becoming a burden to those she is translating for.
When sex comes riding in, as it must, it does so in ways that are vulgar and uncouth. But then in a soul-baring performance from Pete Edwards, once the laughter over vibrator upgrades is out of the way, he gets right into the heart of love and sexuality, to the intimate point where the truth of self-doubt and wonderment are universal.
All the while, Scott Twynholm and Kim Moore provide a live music accompaniment. Sometimes keening, most often throbbing with the drive of modern dance music, it has a fluidity to it as it rides, flexible, around the unfolding drama.
And make no bones, drama there is. A sting in the tale which shows Softley Gale to be a true master of his craft, creating something as satisfying in its form as anything crafted for the big popular circuit.
He not only appreciates a twist of plot, of fate or of perspective as much as the next director, but knows its true value in creating theatrical magic.
Running time 1 hour 15 minutes without interval
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Wednesday 2 – Friday 4 March 2016
Tickets and information from www.traverse.co.uk.
Eden Court, Bishops Road, Inverness, IV3 5SA
Wednesday 16 March 2016: 8pm
Details and tickets: www.eden-court.co.uk
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company website: www.birdsofparadisetheatre.co.uk/
Birds of Paradise TC on Facebook: birdsofparadisetheatre
Birds of Paradise TC on Twitter: @BOPTheatre