Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Theatre review: Plastic Figurines

Walking in to the sound of Sad Piano MusicTM isn't the most auspicious of starts but it all gets better from there in Ella Carmen Greenhill's simple but striking Plastic Figurines. Rose (Remmie Milner) had moved to Edinburgh to start a new life for herself, but when their mother died of leukaemia, she had to return to Manchester to look after her autistic brother Mikey (Jamie Samuel.) The play opens on his 18th birthday but is told out of order, flashing back to their visits to their mother in hospital, the hopes for her recovery and eventually her funeral, and forward to a time when Mikey himself is in hospital for reasons that aren't initially made clear. Other than that this isn't an eventful play but more of a character study of both Mikey and his autism, and his relationship with the sister who's given up a lot for him - but genuinely doesn't appear to feel she's a martyr for it.

And it's a sweet, gently moving and occasionally funny portrait in Adam Quayle's production (interestingly, Samuel described it on Twitter as showing "the beauty of Autism,") that knows this isn't a play full of fireworks but trusts its actors to bring it to life.

And so they do, Samuel coming up with a characteristically lovable and detailed portrayal of Mikey - there's a nicely sustained inability to make eye-contact with his sister, and a couple of great little moments when, against every instinct he has, he attempts to lie to spare her feelings.

Milner is also strong as the patient Rose, and apart from not feeling as if the "rules" Mikey has created for himself are that strongly defined - why does he have to be careful not to get a crumb of chocolate on his skin, but can eat sandwiches messily? - there's little to criticise here. I could have done without Greenhill ending it on a cliffhanger (I choose to take the final sound effect as answering the question) but overall Plastic Figurines feels like a highly personal, intimate piece, sensitively and compellingly staged.

Plastic Figurines by Ella Carmen Greenhill is booking until the 18th of April at the New Diorama Theatre; then continuing on tour to Hemel Hempstead, Bury, Hull, Halifax, Southport, Ellesmere Port, Wigan, Barnsley, Harrogate, Salford, Derby, Shrewsbury and Mold.

Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes straight through.

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