Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Echolalia shows how much theatre can be an act to alleviate loneliness. It is a beautiful and delightful solo show mixing dance, audience immersion, comedy, clown, and monologue.
This stunning solo theatre piece brings the audience into the interior world of a young woman with autism. She shows us the universe of joy in her solitude, through dance, music, and humorous physical theatre. In this cozy world, she interacted unreservedly with the audience, and took us further inside so the audience experienced all of her feelings with her. This is made all the more real by the fact that the world outside her door is a threatening force that keeps her trapped inside. Her funny and expressive movement recognized the audience’s reactions in a way that created comfort and warmth, and gave the audience permission to live in that space with her.
It is a simple narrative of one woman’s effort to leave her apartment to go to a job interview, but it powerfully illustrates the literal challenges of autism. Her performance moved deftly from humour to pain. Much of the play shows the imagination and possibility of her mind. From energetic dance routines, uncanny film imitations, music, and speaking in multiple languages, her talents are staggering. But in the show, her joyful pantomimes, imitations, and songs would heighten to a hilarious point – and suddenly become strained, falter, and collapse.
In the safety of this character’s interior world, it was cathartic to laugh at the ludicrous nature of society. But it was with an awareness of the real issues at stake. There was poignancy here in her friction and difficulties with everyday social norms. For those of us without autism, watching the play, the outside world can be uncomfortable but never unmanageable. This is a consciousness widening experience, in which the audience feels the pain that this joy has to be confined to such a tiny hideaway.