Robert Softley

Robert is an established figure in the Scottish arts scene, with over 10 years of experience in diverse and varied roles – including disability rights activist, actor and performer, writer, artistic director and supporter and advocate of equality of access to the arts for disabled people whether as artists or audiences.

Robert’s professional acting debut was with Theatre Workshop (Edinburgh) in ‘Nothing Ever Burns Down By Itself’ in 2002. Since then, he has appeared in many productions and has developed his own artistic practice – most recently instigating, co-writing and performing in ‘Girl X’ for the National Theatre of Scotland, directed by Pol Heyvaert of Belgium’s Campo. In 2011, he was awarded a Creative Scotland residency which allowed him to develop ‘If These Spasms Could Speak'.

A graduate of Glasgow University with an MSc (Hons) in Business & Management, Robert’s other role is as a director of flip - disability equality in the arts which works across Scotland to support individuals and organisations in the arts sector. Robert is also an Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company, Scotland’s touring company that promotes the work of disabled artists in partnership with non-disabled artists and mainstream theatre venues and companies.

  • Photo: Eoin Carey

    Robert Softley

  • Photo: Eoin Carey

    Robert Softley

Contact details

Robert Softley

148/2 Commercial Street
Edinburgh EH6 6LB
United Kingdom


If These Spasms Could Speak

A solo theatre work by Robert, that exposes a truth behind bodies that differ from the norm by bringing together a collection of stories, gathered through interviews with disabled people, in an engaging and interactive live art performance.

Related Projects

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If These Spasms Could Speak

Duration: 55 minutes
Number of people on road: 3
Freight: Freight necessary

Freight details:

Set consists of a chair and decking that can be transported OR sourced and built locally.


Originally presented as part of The Arches Behaviour! festival of theatre and live art in Glasgow, Scotland during March 2012 and then as part of Made in Scotland 2013.

It toured to São Paulo, Brazil in October 2013 and is currently preparing for an international tour.

Extra information

If These Spasms Could Speak is a small scale production suitable for audience members aged 14+. The space requires 3m x 3m raised staging. The production is suitable for horseshoe or cabaret style seating. A sound and lighting desk is required, and a projector with dimmer connection.

Wrap-around work

Robert is an experienced workshop leader and trainer, both as an actor and theatre practitioner, and as part of his business partnership with Mairi Taylor in Scotland. There are two main areas of focus for 'wrap-around' services:

  • creative workshops using the themes of personal narratives
  • Disability Equality Training/development sessions focusing on areas of embedding disability equality into work and practises for organisations - whether internally or externally.

Press Comments & Testimonials

'This is timed perfectly, delivered impeccably and has one of the most charming narrators I have had the privilege of sitting in front of for years. Gale’s theatricality is spot on. The video work is integral, his timing with the comedy and his self deprecating humour is as honest as it is sharp, his understanding of how to move and keep us fascinated is a performer’s style of telling the tale that never lessens its impact.'

Donald C Stewart, Fringe Review ★★★★★ Click here to open the full review


'…[this] tough and tender verbatim play—woven from interviews in which disabled people talk freely about their relationship with their bodies—is strikingly lucid.'

'Softley is a canny and engaging performer, switching effortlessly from cheeky charisma to poignant interrogation of his experiences living with cerebral palsy. The focus on body image is a smart piece of misdirection because, while the physical limitations Softley and his interviewees describe are recurrent themes, If These Spasms Could Speak is far more concerned with the way their bodies negotiate life; facing, overcoming or sinking under the familiar problems of love, sex, parenting and music festivals.'

'While many of the short monologues are brilliantly funny, such as one woman’s celebration of her “awesome tits”, the best moments are those in which Softley speaks in his own voice, particularly about that paradoxical visibility disabled people experience – that opacity that draws stares but not recognition or acknowledgement.'

Stewart Pringle, Fest Mag ★★★★ Click here to open the full review


'Amid all the show’s complex mesh of thoughts and memories… – and a strong, sexy sense of the sheer value and beauty of life, however physically difficult – it’s Softley’s own voice that sings most clearly… Every fragment of his behaviour, after all – from crawling on stage to take up his place in the spotlight, to stripping off at the behest of a remembered nosy doctor – is transformed, made harder, made new by his physical limitations. And in celebrating his own life, he makes us see our own, with completely fresh eyes.'

Joyce McMillian, Scotsman ★★★★ Click here to open the full review


'As Softley crawls onto the stage, there’s a roguish grin on his face, maybe because he knows his monologue, his very presence, is a challenge to how society still pigeon-holes the disabled – and it’s probably not as the kind of well-educated, successful writer/performer who now entertains us with personal anecdotes of a frank and sometimes horny nature. The man is a charmer. Good-looking, self-aware and a slyly witty raconteur…his solo show is rendered wryly humorous. But it’s when he muses on his body’s condition…that you truly appreciate Softley’s untrammelled passion for being alive in the moment – fine, fierce and inspirational.

Mary Brennan, Herald ★★★★ Click here to open the full review