BWW Review: MY LEFT RIGHT FOOT: THE MUSICAL, Theatre Royal Brighton
Following a highly successful run at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, My Left Right Foot: The Musical makes a stop in the Theatre Royal as part of the Brighton Festival and at the end of the National Theatre of Scotland production's tour to Japan and various Scottish venues.
Robert Softley Gale's tongue-in-cheek take on political correctness is set in the Kirkwood Amateur Dramatics Society's rehearsal room as they prepare their latest show entry for the one-act play festival.
In an attempt to win brownie points for inclusiveness, the company decide to adapt the 1989 film My Left Foot for the stage, depicting the life of Christy Brown, and his journey to becoming a famous artist and writer while living with cerebral palsy.
Led by first-time director, occupational therapy student Amy (Katie Barnett), tensions rise as the troupe fight over whether an able-bodied actor, Grant (Neil Thomas), or Chris (Christopher Imbrosciano), a chap who actually has cerebral palsy, should play Christy.
Barnett toes the line perfectly as enthusiastic, if the unintentionally oblivious director, Amy. Richard Conlon gives an endearing performance as Ian, a quieter individual within the company.
Imbrosciano is commanding as Chris, fighting for his condition to be represented fairly on-stage. Gail Watson delights the audience as Sheena, the society's former director and overbearing motherly figure.
Thomas is suitably suave and pompous as former West End actor Grant, while Shannon Swan gives a sass-filled performance as Gillian.
Natalie MacDonald is immensely expressive as Nat, simply wishing to practice her BSL theatre - who also does a great job of signing the majority of the show for the audience.
Despite the work's sartorial look at how disabled people are viewed in society, the show itself sets a gold standard in terms of making the performance accessible. Dialogue and lyrics are clearly projected on a clear portion of the set in dyslexic-friendly colours (design by Lewis den Hertog).
The entire cast sign portions of the show throughout and Alex Parker, "performing" musical director, takes time away from playing the piano to describe the set to those in attendance with visual impairment. A "chill out zone" is available outside of the auditorium, and a relaxed performance is scheduled on 16 May.
Claire McKenzie, Scott Gilmour and Richard Thomas's score is full of fun and boppy grooves that occasionally parody other musicals; "Spasticity" has hints of Billy Elliot's "Electricity", for example. While the lyrics contain many a clever pun and jibe, they are on occasion clunky and excessively obscene.
Grant Anderson's lighting design is delightfully colourful, with thoughtful hues for certain numbers, e.g. green, orange and white for the Irish-themed "Drinking Song", and even creates moments of humour when characters on occasion feel put out of the spotlight.
Rebecca Hamilton's set transports you to your average small town hall and her costumes befit each character, most notably Grant's collection of "serious actor" turtleneck jumpers.
There are some mic issues at this particular performance, but Barnett makes every effort to be heard without amplification when her microphone fails her. On occasion, the sound mix makes it difficult to hear the lead vocal - which made the captions even more useful - but these are typical teething issues on the first night in a new venue.
My Left Right Foot deals with the importance of inclusivity without taking itself too seriously and has the audience gasping and giggling as the dramatic troupe navigate the minefield of political correctness. Full of laughs and important lessons, it should not be missed.
My Left Right Foot: The Musical at Theatre Royal Brighton until 18 May
Photo credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan