Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Statements at the Bread and Roses Theatre

There are shows that you take in like a deep breath, and Statements is one of them. Essential and seamless, it offers an invaluable insight into the poorly understood facets of special educational needs.

Drawing from first-hand experience, writer and performer Samuel Clayton depicts a multi-dimensional world where Asperger's, Down Syndrome and Emotional Behavioural Disorder are seen through the eyes of three young boys and those who surround them. Each of these characters seem to live inside Samuel, who effortlessly shapes them with an impressive repertoire of inflexions and body language. He oozes innocence, worry, indifference, loneliness, joy with such a moving candour that is hard to believe this doesn't come straight from his heart.

Daniel is nine and has Asperger's, which might, or might not be considered within the Autism spectrum. He really likes music, and, for this reason, he can often be found humming and tapping away. Many people don't like this habit he has but, as a matter of fact, we all have habits and, at least, his are clean. He finds it hard to emotionally relate to other people and can't quite work out the true meaning of metaphors, until the day his mother decides to take him to his first live gig and a world of colourful patterns and shapes explodes inside him translating into tears. Clayton paints this scene with such vivid colours that I felt entirely transported to the venue, as if I was listening to the jazz concert sat beside him.

Javeed is a young refugee from Afghanistan who has Down Syndrome. His family arrived in the country only a few months earlier and he can't speak English yet. Nonetheless, he is a very friendly chap and he wonders why people walk away from him when he smiles at them. All he wants, after all, is just to have some company. 

Toby is the school bully who causes his single father a great deal of inconvenience. He's aggressive, troublesome and, once again, his teachers had to call home because of his inappropriate behaviour in the classroom. A chat on the way back reveals an insurmountable emotional barrier with the father clearly stating his lack of interest for his child's feelings. How hard it is to overcome that barrier when two people can't communicate!

Around these boys, a web of inquisitive or hostile peers, unprepared teachers, aloof SENCOs and speech therapists, dedicated assistants and concerned, hopeless or even annoyed parents. All voiced, in turn, by Clayton's crisp writing and compelling execution and accompanied by a discreet but immaculate use of lighting and sound.

Statements is an unmissable one-man show that fills the stage with the most interesting people you'll ever meet, especially those who are too often distanced or ignored.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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