Charlie Knights gives his thoughts on Act One’s latest production, Eat Sleep Bathe Repeat.
“What were you expecting?”
“I guess taking socially awkward people to the cinema or something…”
“Did you by any chance see Rain Man before today?”
“Well yeah! That’s what they’re like aren’t they?”
My experiences with Act One over the last few months are shaded with a myriad of emotions. All their productions contain some kind of message, it could be light hearted or dark, really meaningful or crude. Somehow Josh Day’s fantastic production ‘Eat, Sleep, Bathe, Repeat’ manages to simultaneously be all of these. Autism isn’t an easy subject to deal with, as my previous quote demonstrates, most people have this idealistic opinion that autism is this beautiful minds, quirky, bit-of-a-joke condition, and don’t think about the real implications to both those suffering and from those charged with their care.
ESBR takes place within the Riverside care home, following the trials and tribulations of James Parker (Luke Merchant) the newest care worker. Greeted by the crude Aaron (Alexander Morgan), the caring Steph (Katie Dougan) and the hardworking stressed team leader Claire (Emily Broad), he slowly comes to grips with the ideas that some of the residents can’t even speak, have their own routines, and the difficulty of true interaction. The staff workers each had their own quirks, and the improvisation between them played off fantastically, from Aaron’s crude lines and devil-may-care attitude, to Steph’s sarcasm and huge care for particular residents, to Claire’s cool attitude, but who had out bursts at times that stunned the audience to silence with the passion present in her portrayal.
Congratulations must be given to the people playing the residents; Lloyd (Harrison Webb), Harvey (Sam Borthwick), Ray (Soutrick Banerjee), Jake (Mike Fahey), and Jordan (Rob Maddison). In a production that will be soon going up to be performed at Edinburgh Fringe, and on such a sensitive subject, the pressure is high. Yet at no point did I see any of the background acting slip, with all characters holding their form and attitudes, from the rocking and stamping of Jordan, to the hunched back of the 60 year old Harvey (which I imagine will need some serious chiropractic adjustment after three performances).
I liked the feel of the production. The overall tone was quite harsh with James struggling to understand, but by the end he was another member of this dysfunctional family we began to see emerge. It has the feel of a coming of age story, and I’m a sucker for it. The staging was also brilliant, with a collection of flat background wall, and all constructed by what all reports say have been a fantastic crew, composed of Evie Hollahan (PM), Emily Cully (Assistant PM), Sinead Davies (Publicity) and Rosanna Towle (Props and costume).
For any people who happen to be in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, it will be worth coming along to see this, and the other production Act One is sending up. On top of all this, the presentation on all the little day to day interactions was interesting. It changed constantly, going on to highlight the unpredictable nature that can come with low functioning autism. One moment characters would be happy then the next moment fly into a fit of rage, oft with no warning.
As a final mention, the attention to detail and background research was above and beyond anything else I have seen this year. Josh Day put in countless hours of research, meeting people with low functioning autism and carers alike, sharing articles to the cast and crew Facebook group, and even giving a lecture on autism to students here at Cardiff. Bravo to the whole cast. In a play like this, one slip up can be horrendously offensive, insensitive, and as such the nightmares that must come from that pressure could have been a tough boundary to overcome. But instead we received a captivating play, with minimal slip ups. To the cast, you have done yourselves and the whole society proud, to the crew you have made a scene and a setting that fit with a difficult subject which is no easy task, and to the director, very well done. The dedication and commitment shone through.
Good luck in Edinburgh!