Cartoonopolis - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Thursday, February 5, 2015 through till Saturday, February 14, 2015
Liverpool Playhouse Studio - Liverpool
Johanna Roberts | Thursday, February 12, 2015
The magic of theatre is its ability to introduce us to new worlds, to help us see into other people’s lives. In this respect, ‘Cartoonopolis’ provides magic in abundance, as we are invited into not one world, but two.
Lewis Bray, (a graduate from the YEP actors programme) with the help of directors Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson and financial help from the e&P Ignition Project, has written and performs in a remarkable piece of drama. Lewis’ incredibly physical performance effectively conveys how exhausting it can be dealing with autismWith insight, humour and tenderness, he recreates for us not only the world of his real family – parents Bev and Nige, and brother Jack – but also Cartoonopolis, the world that Jack, who has autism, has created for himself. Playing all the characters, both real and imaginary, and using just a chair, a partition at the back of the stage, and extremely effective lighting and sound, Lewis has structured the play so we see these two worlds develop in parallel. The parents’ realisation that Jack is ‘different’ (the poignancy of Bev’s attempts to get Jack to say ‘mum’); Jack discovering his affinity with the cartoon world and learning to speak, complete with an American accent (‘mom’) and the growing tensions due to the family’s fears that when Jack turns 18 he might be sent to a ‘unit’, are mirrored by the crisis in Cartoonopolis, where Jack’s mission – with Lewis’ help - is to stop the sinister Mayor Sharpe, who is slicing the characters and stealing their souls and their creativity.
Lewis’ incredibly physical performance effectively conveys how exhausting it can be dealing with autism, and the family’s courage in facing each new challenge, each new crisis, each new set of forms. The immense creativity Jack uses to create his world is also demonstrated by Lewis in his double story telling of family and fantasy as he highlights the challenges families face with an intolerant society that can be quick to condemn what it doesn’t understand, that views all people with autism as a problem rather than as unique individuals, and where vulnerable young people and their families are losing the services they so desperately need, and society is losing what such people can offer. In the post-performance discussion, many audience members indicated how the play could and should be taken into schools, the NHS, and the wider community.
I very much hope that somewhere in a government office, funding is made available so that 105 minutes of theatre by one actor can help society to change its response to autism and show greater awareness, compassion, and tolerance.
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