Interview: theatremaker Robert Softley on new show Tell Me What Giving Up Looks Like

The creator of If These Spasms Could Speak tackles disability in both arts and sport as part of Culture 2014

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Interview: theatremaker Robert Softley on new show Tell Me What Giving Up Looks Like

Photo: Niall Walker

Robert Softley has created some of the most exciting work from Scotland in the past few years – from the deeply personal If These Spasms Could Speak through to Random Accomplice/Birds of Paradise’s recent team-up Wendy Hoose. As part of Culture 2014, Softley is asking Tell Me What Giving Up Looks Like.

What inspired the title of this production?
It’s a genuine question – when people describe a disabled person as being ‘inspirational’ they quite often go on to say that they doubt they’d be able to do ‘that’ themselves. But what is the alternative? The only alternative to doing something is not doing it – is giving up – but how do you do that?

What encouraged you to get on board with the Commonwealth Games’ Culture 2014 event?
The chance to create more work. Parts of this show talks about my disinterest in sport, so I certainly wasn’t coming at it from that perspective. However, disabled artists and disabled sportspeople have something in common: they are both seen as being inspirational, which felt like a good starting point.

For the people who might catch your work for the first time, how would you describe it?
I create work about the ways I see the world. As someone with a physical disability, everything takes a bit more time. This means I’ve got time just to think about things. The work I make hopefully takes my perspective and makes it relevant to a wider audience – simple!

How do you feel about the arrival of the Games in Glasgow?
Indifferent. The opportunities that come out of the Games – such as Culture 2014 – are great ways to focus the work of artists, but as someone with little interest in sport, I can’t claim to be overly excited about the Games.

Is your work personal or political?
I would probably argue that all theatre and all art has to be personal and political, so if my work can do a bit of both then I’m happy.

The Arches, Glasgow, Wed 6–Sat 9 Aug.

Robert Softley: Tell Me What Giving Up Looks Like

A disabled athlete and a disabled artist tell their stories.

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