Edinburgh Fringe 2014
The subject of autism is tackled maturely through a children’s tale of when Harriet has her notebook stolen. With her imaginary accomplices, Poirot, Morse and Holmes she tracks it down.
Harriet is mildly autistic which leads her to have a vast knowledge of TV detectives, have difficulty in forming relationships and is very factual when communicating. When her precious notebook, into which she places all of her observations goes missing, everyone tells her she has lost it. She knows though that it has been stolen. Methodically she goes about trying to convince people that she is right at home and at school. Eventually as Poirot would say, once all of the improbable has been eliminated what shall remain, no matter how unbelievable, is the truth. The truth is very much close to home and an attempt to get Harriet away from this obsessive behaviour is clumsy and doomed to failure.
This was well written and it had some decent little plot lines dropped in like the fact that her mother had had an affair in the past. It therefore stands the test of being theatrical and tackling a very difficult subject in an enlightening manner. The performances from this young group were fantastic. Fizz Margereson as Harriet was utterly believable. I have no idea if she has autism but if she does not then this was very good indeed. All of the scene changes with music from James Bond to Scooby Doo were inspired. (How long is it since I heard Inspector Gadget?!) The strongest part of the show was the choral singing but that was due to how extraordinarily good it was rather than it standing out from anything negative.
The cast were the set and the props which really worked well. The school scenes in particular were good. Once again I have to praise a young company that refuses to choose a popular musical with which to pass their time. The creativity that this company found in delivering new theatre has made us all richer. What I do have to criticise is the lighting. At times it was far from helpful. A few people not finding their light too which was a shame. You need to walk into the light and not wait for it to find you.
The use of Autism as one of the plot lines was also clever. The way in which Harriet was unconventional and yet so engaging was exactly how we ought to perceive autistic people. I didn’t particularly like the ending though. It was all a bit schmaltzy and cheesy. Nothing wrong with that per se but I don’t think many autistic people would recognise the hand of friendship from the popular girls being offered as a genuine gesture at any time. This was the only area where I felt as if the company could have gone further. It is clearly a very able bunch of actors and their treatment of the subject matter and their onstage competencies would have benefitted from being further stretched. Having said that this is a slick show with great ideas wrapped up in it.