Rosie and Mike are brought together when their mum dies of leukaemia. She’s “escaped” to Edinburgh to study while he was staying with their mum – and the painful events provide the background for the siblings to reunite and learn more about each other in the shadow of a ground-breaking event they need to grieve through. Read our Plastic Figurines review below!
The narration in Plastic Figurines is led mainly by Rosie: sharing her experiences in a stream of consciousness, she confesses how she feels about her autistic brother, their family home, and their parents. Her inability to understand Mikey, her brother, driven by the strong force to comprehend his every thought often drives her to the edge, testing her patience and empathy. Clever and emotional writing from Ella Carmen Greenhill (based on her own experiences) is packed with details that help to dip into memories with the main characters – and the author uses the storytelling to emphasise the differences and build up the tension on unresolved conflicts and misunderstandings until the grand, warm but not light, finale. Here, the narration is one of the most powerful notions of the story: although we listen to Rosie, who is expressive and willing to share her experiences, openly talking about her feelings and emotions, we need to wait for a similar introduction from Mikey for a while. That separation of ways of expression and a strongly behavioural portrayal of a person with autism which flows into a powerful monologue towards the end helps us understand Rosie’s struggle to get into her little brother’s head. In fact, we learn about the both of them – because we get to understand where she is coming from, too.
Although it is a play about a serious subject, the plot and the acting makes it as heart-wrenching as heart-warming: there are moments when all we see are nothing different than good intentions and love from both sides, and that brings a handful of warm smiles, and sometimes even chuckles, to the audience: even if the words hang in the air and become unspoken and the daily conversations twist into awkwardness that is a major barrier to be destroyed.
Mikey, played by Jamie Samuel, surprises as he gives us a peek into a life of a person with autism; we get to understand the obsessive-compulsive behaviour patterns, relying on logic to an illogical extent, the incapability of learning social skills and difficulty in understanding metaphors or subtleties in interactions. He hurts his sister without even knowing it throwing his rational, well-weighed facts at her without an ounce of camouflage – and Rosie (portrayed by Vanessa Schofield) tries to work out how to understand her brother, although the journey of assisting him through his experiences rather than carrying his world on her shoulders is not a simple one, and it takes a while to learn the route and support rather than guide. Whether you had a chance to spend time with somebody on the autistic spectrum, or you just heard or read about autism, the play is an eye-opener: hitting the audience hard with everyday situations taken out of real life; it explains the different perception of the world, slight naivety, and painful honesty that is so strongly tied with the disability.