Best of the Edinburgh Fringe

Lesley Warner reviews two shows that included performers with a learning disability

Storytelling is an art form that speaks to all of us at a fundamental human level. Tayberry Tales takes this one step further, using a multi-sensory approach involving not just language but also evocative sounds, gestures and the use of touch. 

A scene from the Tayberry Tales… (l-r)  Ebi Eftekhar, Jason Lyons, Frances Thompson and Chantelle Fox


In this interactive show the performers, all of whom have a learning disability, present a selection of traditional Scottish stories in which the listeners become part of the process of storytelling. 

So, while one performer, Frances Thompson, is telling in short, focussed sentences the story of Kitty and the Giant, another performer, Steven Singers, takes a selection of props round the audience, inviting us to, for example, squeeze a velvet bag containing crackling paper to produce the sound of a child running through a forest.

In another story, we get to stroke Bramble the dog and put him back in his kennel. 

In a story performed by Ebi Eftekhar and Jason Lyons, we join in with making the noise of the wind that filled the sails of the Viking ships in their journey to Scotland long ago, and enjoy the humour of the invaders being repelled by sharp Scottish thistles on their bare feet. 

An element of rhyme and repetition adds to the listeners’ pleasure, and the whole performance is captivating as the storytellers bring the tales vividly to life. 

Volunteer opportunities

Tayberry Tales is one element of the work of Tayberry Enterprise Ltd, based in Dundee. Set up as a social enterprise with charitable status by a group of specialist occupational therapists, the organisation delivers a range of activities, volunteer opportunities, trainee roles and supported work placements. 

Project co-ordinator Anne Everett-Ogston is developing a Storyteller Apprenticeship scheme in partnership with the charity PAMIS, a Scottish voluntary organisation which works with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their families. 

The storytellers deliver sessions to groups and individuals with multiple and profound disabilities, and some of the performers have already developed the necessary skills and confidence to go into local schools to tell stories on a regular basis.

Mia: Daughters of Fortune

This play explores what it is like for someone with a learning disability to learn about sex, develop relationships, and aspire to becoming a parent. 

The fast-paced show, created and directed by Joyce Nga Yu Lee, is presented by learning disability theatre company Mind the Gap

Combining personal testimony from learning disabled parents, information about chromosome abnormalities, dance routines, and a horrifying film about eugenics, the cast highlight obstacles they face in being allowed to give birth to, and keep, their children. 

A social worker assesses their competence in a mind-boggling total of 364 skills, while a game show called Don’t Drop the Baby, in which the winner gets to keep their child, has three actors playing different Mias being tested on changing nappies and general knowledge. 

We learn that about 7% of adults with a learning disability are parents, and around 40% of parents with a learning disability have their children removed.

Alison Colbourne, Anna Gray and JoAnne Haines play Mia, with Alan Clay as the game show host and other characters, acting with enthusiasm, sensitivity and wit. 

Their performances are made even more poignant from knowing they all potentially face in real life the difficulties they portray so well on stage.

About the author

Lesley Warner is a freelance writer

This article is for subscribers only