Purposeless Movements

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


Four guys are on-stage, joshing with one other in a mood of cheeky camraderie. Gradually, all kinds of frank disclosures come to the fore. Personal stuff. About the teenage urges – seeking love and romance, as well as sexual escapades – that come with the hormonal lava flow of adolescence. The hiccups of adulthood are in the mix too, and these also arrive with a tinge of comedic self-mockery because, as Laurence Clark explains, it ingratiates them with an audience. Fine. Stand-up merchants frequently deploy similar tactics. Few of them add “if you’re laughing, you won’t be so freaked out by our jerky movements.” The medical profession labelled these spasms and tics “purposeless movements”. They are – to a greater or lesser degree – present in all four.

Writer/director Robert Softley Gale has brought the men together, with Amy Cheskin (additional movement/BSL) and live musicians Scott Twynholm and Kim Moore, for this latest provocation from Birds of Paradise – so now we’re being hilariously entertained, enlightened and teased into examining our attitudes to people with cerebral palsy, people like Clark, Colin Young, Jim Fish and Pete Edwards. Of all the adjectives you could attach to this production, and their performances – and all four are professional actors – let’s look beyond the usual tags of “brave” and “courageous”. Because this is one brilliantly shrewd triumph of a show that uses their declared impairment to challenge the way we look not only at the world around us, but at what’s on-stage – there is a whammy of a twist that cunningly addresses the issue of audiences, perhaps unwittingly, “making allowances” for artists with disability. It’s theatre with an intensity of purpose, honest even unflinchingly graphic, wickedly funny and memorably impressive at every level.