It’s not often I get the pleasure of interviewing and writing a feature, and then also reviewing the show, but I was lucky enough to speak to Tom Middleditch of A_tistic and director and producer Jayde Kirchert ahead of the opening of the show.
The show focuses specifically on the spectrum disorder Alexithymia, the inability to identify and describe felt emotions. It’s a lovely show examining the intricacies of how emotions influence our behaviours, but it doesn’t explicitly ask you to examine these things, and you will need to push yourself to expand and extrapolate the meanings from the show and apply it to your understanding of spectrum disorders. I wish the show had been a bit stronger in its explanations and it’s teachings, to ensure that audience members got a deep understanding of autism and how to be an advocate and supportive of neuro-diversity.
The arena stage arrangement works well for the show, allowing the actors to play to the audience, especially in the first two sections of the show. The first part of the show focuses on a job interview, which highlights the disadvantages people with spectrum disorders may face in everyday life due to an inability to recognize social cues, and how people are reacting to their behavior.
The second part is a game show, which makes fun of an overdramatic process of naming and identifying emotions – it’s corny to the point of uncomfortable, but that’s because for the neuro-normative, we don’t need to think about these things.
The last part of the show is the most emotionally draining- the examining of someone who, following an injury, no longer experiences a desire for anything, and is thus defined by other people’s expectations and beliefs. It’s the most serious part but it sets the mindset of the rest of the show. Its clinical, and it examines not allowing yourself to become a label or being slapped with a label.
Lighting and sound greatly compliment the show, from the sound effects and voiceovers that add context to the stories, while lighting sets the mood and helps heighten the emotions in the room.
The performances by Keagan Vaskess, Nicola Bowman and Emma Hoy are strong, energetic and emotive – it’s not an easy subject matter and they deliver it with bravado. There’s a stand out monologue by Yellow (Emma Hoy) that feels Shakespeare inspired but brings through the severity and seriousness of anxiety induced by not feeling like you fit in or are normal, because of how your brain works.
Alexithymia plays at Meat Market until 19 November. Tickets and more info: http://www.poppyseedfestival.com/events-calendar/2017/11/8/alexithymia-by-citizen-theatre-atistic