My Left/Right Foot – The Musical

The annual Scottish Amateur Dramatic Association One-Act Play Festival is fast approaching, and the Kirktoon Players are trying to decide what their entry should be. At Amy’s suggestion, they decide they should try and make the most of the association’s new inclusivity drive – extra points will be awarded if they can demonstrate a bit of diversity – and elect to create their own adaptation of the film My Left Foot (most remembered for Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning performance in the starring role). But will Grant (an actor with West End experience) get the role of a lifetime, or is it handyman Chris’ chance to step into the spotlight? The fact that he actually has cerebral palsy may just take the decision out of the club’s hands.

Birds of Paradise Theatre Company (in association with the National Theatre of Scotland) bring this brand new musical to Assembly Roxy for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running throughout August. The company aims to increase accessibility for audiences as well as provide new and varied opportunities for disabled artists to share their creativity. This particular show seamlessly incorporates sign language and some audio description, courtesy of two members of the club (Nat & Gavin – also the MD), as well as some well-considered captions that are projected onto the set – even including musical notes when the line is being sung.

In contrast to most depictions of disability and attempts at inclusivity, My Left/Right Foot resists the urge to make an inspirational story about a disabled person, instead choosing to look at the attitudes of people without a disability (however good the intentions) and poke fun at this. Why should there be a constant stream of “inspiration porn”, as they put it in the show, rather than productions that actually provide real commentary on the subject? The bonus with My Left/Right Foot is that it also manages to be hysterically funny at the same time as all of this.

With a book from Robert Softley Gale (who also directs), and songs from Scott Gilmour, Claire McKenzie & Richard Thomas, they’re onto a winner before you even introduce a company of actors. They all give wonderful performances, but for me it’s Matthew Duckett (Chris) and Dawn Sievewright (Gillian) who stand out. Duckett portrays Chris as an ordinary, down to earth lad who’s frustrated at disability automatically leading to victim status – and Sievewright brings her excellent sense of comedy to reluctant movement director Gillian, as she schemes to attract Chris’ attention. It almost goes without saying that her incredible vocals almost blow the roof off of the auditorium!

My Left/Right Foot – The Musical
Photo credit: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

My verdict? An hysterically funny new musical that also makes a rather pertinent point about disability & inclusivity – the performances are top notch, and it’s effortlessly accessible.

Rating: 5*

My Left/Right Foot – The musical runs at Assembly Roxy (Central) until 27 August 2018 (6.10pm, 90 min). Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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