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Girl X

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Beneath a busy city underpass, seventeen people meet to talk, argue and
engage. The internet has gone down, so such real live flesh and blood
encounters are deemed necessary to allow a collective letting off of
steam. At the centre of this is actor and disabled activist Robert
Softley, who puts on the agenda the ethical dilemma of what to do when
the parents of a child with cerebral palsy decree to desexualise her,
stunting her growth and keeping her forever young. Out of this comes a
torrent of tangents, twists and turns any debate can veer off into,
online or otherwise. Taboos are broken, things are said in the heat of
the moment and at times things go too far. The conclusion? If there is
one, it’s left hanging, waiting for the next posting.

On one level Softley’s collaboration with Belgian director Pol Heyvaert
and dramaturg Bart Capelle for this contribution to the National
Theatre of Scotland’s Reveal season is community theatre writ large,
with the sixteen-strong choir squaring up to Softley en masse in a well
orchestrated fashion. On another, it’s a powerful soapbox for Softley
to vent his spleen on disabled politics in a mainstage public platform.

Whether it’s saying anything that can’t be found in an episode of Glee,
for instance is itself a matter for debate, but it nevertheless
challenges the wet liberal consensus by acknowledging things that would
normally be politely ignored, including the fact that projected
surtitles are being used because Softley’s voice isn’t always easy to
If it is to make a difference, Girl X probably needs to go further. As
a conversation piece, however, it’s a start.

The Herald, March 7th 2011



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