It was Halloween where most were out trick or treating, dressing up or if not, reminding us of their previous years costumes, but not us. We had a more wonderful occasion to be at instead, the 25th Anniversary celebration of Birds of Paradise theatre, the award winning company that created the acclaimed My Left Right Foot. A cabaret of acts including the marvellous Jess Thom (Touretteshero), Oasissay, Harry Josephine Giles, Laurence Clark and Toni Jerrett, there was much to remind the audience about why precisely a company like Birds of Paradise has lasted twenty-five years, and will hopefully last many more.
2018 has been a crazy year for Birds of Paradise, one where core funding was cut by Creative Scotland, then dramatically reinstated following intense lobbying and media pressure combined with the recent success of smash Edinburgh Festival hit ‘My Left Right Foot’ with National Theatre of Scotland. Robert Softley Gale and his team have been championing the work of disabled theatre, aiming to make disabled artists a vital part of the artistic landscape, and tonight featured some rather impressive acts.
Kicking off with the compere, renowned Jess Thom, AKA Touretteshero, using comedy to remind the crowd about the important work of Birds of Paradise, as well as introducing the acts as they appear on the stage, the precedence was set for the night. First up was a bit of clowning around from Dream World Theatre, which was soon followed by Leah Francisco, who really got us thinking about theatre for the deaf, as well as being a deaf performer, hilariously introducing us to the sign language for all sorts of profanities. The entire evening also had BSL interpretation, audio description and live captions for the audience, another reminder of the work that Birds of Paradise do. Sally Clay then took to the stage for her astounding singing performance, which had an air of musical theatre to it, with a fair amount of comedy to the lyrics. Wonderfully entertaining.
Then it was time for the all important auction and raffle, which was hosted by the Creative Electric team, keeping the variety and comedy very much present on the stage. Toni Jerrett was next with a performance that highlighted the importance of the #MeToo campaign and we were also entertained by the politicised poetry of Harry Josephine Giles. Oasissy brilliantly mocked the Gallagher brothers, with an act that highlighted their brawling with an LGBT edge, and Laurence Clark concluded it all with a reminder that comedy is not exempt to those with cerebral palsy, hitting home the thread throughout the night that comedy, theatre and performance should be accessible to all, and that these stories brought to the stage should be just as celebrated. Here’s to another twenty five years of Birds of Paradise.
Photos courtesy of Andy Catlin.