There’s no more reliable source of comedy – musical or otherwise – than the backstage shenanigans of an amateur drama company making a hash of their latest production.
My Left/Right Foot – The Musical, Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) ****
It’s hard to recall a show in which that scenario has been exploited with such theatrical flair and gusto as in this joint project – written and directed by Robert Softley Gale – between Birds of Paradise, Scotland’s premier company working with performers with disabilities and the National Theatre of Scotland.
As the show opens – on a comically dingy church-hall set, with musical director Gavin Whitworth tinkling the ivories – the seven members of the Kirktoon Players assemble to consider their next show, and decide to try to win some brownie points by tackling a subject to do with disability. They agree on a stage version of Christy Brown’s My Left Foot, made famous by Daniel Day Lewis’s 1989 film performance; but would-be leading man Grant doesn’t get it, about changing attitudes to non-disabled actors playing disabled roles, and neither do most of the rest of the company.
What follows is a riot of plotting, scheming, splitting and love gone wrong, as diffident disabled Chris – only in the room because bossy club secretary Sheena gave him some odd jobs – emerges as the actor with first-hand knowledge of disability the show needs. The show’s songs are clever, heartfelt, funny, often refreshingly filthy and brilliantly performed by a cast whose singing and dancing skills fairly take the breath away, featuring Dawn Sievewright, Gail Watson, Richard Conlon, Louise McCarthy, John McLarnon, Matthew Duckett and superb BSL interpreter Natalie MacDonald, now a star of Scottish theatre in her own right.
And at the end, My Left/Right Foot emerges as a show that stands up for disabled people’s right to be heard – with the best possible weapons against the resurgent forces of sneering prejudice: love, passion, excellent tunes and a roaring sense of humour that leaves the audience breathless with laughter from start to finish.
• Until 27 August, 6:10pm