ACTOR Robert Softley Gale will soon perform in The Tin Soldier, a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s first tale for children by Olivier Award-winner Mike Kenny. The production by Birds of Paradise Theatre Company, of which he is co-director, is presented in association with Edinburgh’s Festival and King’s Theatres and will run from December 7 to 23, ahead of the company’s 25th anniversary year in 2018.

GROWING up as a boy with cerebral palsy I didn’t see anyone on TV, on the stage or in the media that looked like me, and so I’m acutely aware of the role that Birds of Paradise plays in representing disabled people. Birds of Paradise is Scotland’s disabled-led touring theatre company that promotes the work of disabled artists, putting disabled people’s stories on stage to show the wider public that our lives are just as fun, difficult, exciting, challenging and complex as theirs.

As a company we look to engage people from all backgrounds and this is what led us to create The Tin Soldier; a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, written by Mike Kenny, aimed at five- to nine-year-olds and their companions.

The Tin Soldier is directed by my colleague Garry Robson, who is also disabled, and is a show about orphans who find each other in a rough, tough world. It features incredible new music, performances and comedy but it also has a powerful message at the heart - that difference is good, and we need to work together to support each other.

By presenting The Tin Soldier on stage we aim to show young people a representation of disability, while hopefully engaging them to advocate for a more inclusive society in the future. The idea of being a role model to young people makes me a little uncomfortable – my west-coast upbringing keeps telling me not to be so full of myself – but, at some level, I know that young people can gain a lot from seeing a man like me on stage.

As we open The Tin Soldier this December, we’ll also be looking ahead to our 25th anniversary next year; gearing up to present a thrilling programme of events that will let more people see the work we do. From cabaret events to fundraising gigs, engagement work to upcoming productions, we will be launching our year at the Scottish Parliament in March but we’re already excited to announce that we’ll be creating a brand new co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland called My Left Right Foot – a celebratory, riotous musical production, which will be presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

So what else do we have in store? Well in January we’ll find out – along with hundreds of other arts organisations – if our application for a further three years of funding from Creative Scotland has been successful.

We sincerely hope that, in our 25th year, we can continue to look ahead to the future, because disabled artists have only just started to tell their stories – we’re not done yet.

December 7 to 23, The Studio, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, various times and prices. Tickets from: