On entering the Beneath space at the Pleasance Courtyard I was curious. The house lights came down and we heard a scuffle and a few bumps, then a crouched figure come on stage on his hands and knees. It eventually became obvious that this is how Robert Softley gets around.
When he faced the audience and started talking it became apparent that he had a speech impediment too. He immediately made light of all of these things, putting the audience at ease through humour. Within minutes his bubbly cheeky and refreshing personality had dispelled any preconceptions of disability that people may have had.
Throughout the piece he continued to talk light-heartedly of his condition but also added in poignant and thought provoking moments. He talked of how he couldn’t take his brother to the doctors without being asked questions about his own health, go to the gym without being stared at or even sleep next to someone without having an attack of spasms.
He cleverly conveys his message through images and videos on a projected screen behind him as well as certain important words, which he said throughout his monologue. He also conversed with a voice-over of a doctor asking him questions; a powerful device that demonstrated Softley’s vulnerability to the insensitivity of those he relies on to look after him.
My overall impression of the piece was how brave this man was to (literally) bare all and tell us what it’s like to be different. It is an extremely moving piece that will stay with you longer than most others at the festival this year.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow. Image Courtesy of Pleasance.