Preview Musical: Raspberry
The life of singer-songwriter Ian Dury is as fascinating as the uncompromising songs he recorded with influential new wave band, the Blockheads. To date Dury’s story has inspired a musical (Hit Me!) and a biopic (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll), and now award-winning playwright and artistic director of Fittings Multimedia Arts Garry Robson is about to take a musical inspired by Dury on the road in association with Scottish inclusive music theatre company Sounds of Progress.
Based on stories and characters from Dury’s songs, Raspberry focuses on Rita, a blacksmith’s daughter, born with physical disabilities, whose father attempts to ‘cure’ her. The piece takes its title from Dury’s own nickname for himself – Dury was left with physical disabilities after contracting polio as a child (‘raspberry ripple’ is the Cockney rhyming slang for ‘cripple’).
As New York-based actress and director Christine Bruno, who plays Rita, explains, the piece combines music from amazing bands such as The Superheroes and Blind Gurl and the Crips with performance to create an entertaining night of theatre with an important political message.
‘It’s based on the life and music of Ian Dury but it has a story that everyone can relate to, whether they’re disabled or not, about a young person trying to break out of the mould,’ she says. ‘Everyone assumes that a disabled person wants to be “cured”, but this piece is about getting people to realise the universality of disability and embracing those differences.’
Bruno, who was a fan of Dury’s work before receiving the script for Raspberry, auditioned for the play over the internet, including recording a couple of monologues and a song and taking part in meetings over Skype. (‘It was all very 21st century,’ she laughs.) She’s thrilled to be given the opportunity to take part in such an exciting showcase for disabled artists.
‘I’ve worked a lot in the UK and there’s much more of an embracing of disabled artists in this country – I’m not sure a production of this size would even exist in the US. I think the UK is ahead of the US in terms of its understanding of disability and particularly disabled arts. There are almost no inclusive companies in the States.’
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 31 Mar–Sat 3 Apr, then touring