Girl X highlights complex nature of disability sexuality debate
- Allan Radcliffe
- 18 March 2011
National Theatre of Scotland play succeeds despite dramatic limitations
Girl X was inspired by the real-life case of a pre-pubescent girl with learning difficulties whose mother successfully sought legal approval to have her womb removed to spare her the discomfort of menstruation. The show’s creators Robert Softley and Pol Heyvaert have structured their show around internet debates on the incident and its wider implications.
The participants in this debate are a disparate 16-strong Greek chorus whose reactions to the Girl X case are challenged – sometimes with wry humour, sometimes with barely repressed fury – by the main performer, Softley. The discussion is peppered with the prejudices, divergent views and digressions that characterise internet forums and there are some amusing forays into song from the chorus. After a while, though, the format feels a little repetitive, and, although the subject matter is important and compelling, the way the text has been constructed rather limits the show’s dramatic potential.
The piece really comes into its own when Softley – a disabled rights activist who has cerebral palsy – and the chorus dispense with the niceties and the debate becomes personal. There’s a chilling moment when the chorus draws attention to the surtitles above the stage, put there, they claim, to help the audience understand what Softley is saying. At another point Softley questions whether any of the chorus would ever want to fuck him.
As with any ongoing debate this piece is left open-ended, but it succeeds in highlighting the complex nature of issues surrounding disability sexuality and wider disability rights in a way that is rarely expressed so directly in theatre.
Dundee Rep, Tue 12 Apr. Seen at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Sun 6 Mar. For touring schedule see www.nationaltheatrescotland.com