BWW Review: IMPERSONAL SPACE at Old Queen's Theatre
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 20th October 2017.
Impersonal Space is presented by Company AT, with support from Tutti Arts, and was written by local playwright Emily Steele. All members of Company AT are on the autistic spectrum and this is the focus of all of their work. Director, and Company AT Artistic Director, Julian Jaensch, has turned to Brecht, whose theatrical philosophy and performance techniques are at the very basis of the production and this works superbly in letting the audience into the mind of an autistic schoolgirl and the minds of those around her.
Nameless is nine years of age and her schoolmates bully her because she seems different to them. They call her "dopey" and "weird", but she doesn't understand why they pick on her, until an explanation comes when she is diagnosed as autistic. Nameless finds two imaginary friends in Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton, whom some believe were on the autistic spectrum, and they become her constant companions and mentors. In the initial stages of the performance, her teacher is at a loss, and even her parents disagree on how to relate to her.
Nameless is played by Kaila Pole who, as it happens, was also aged nine when she was diagnosed as autistic, and who brings her own experiences to the role in a wonderfully engaging performance. Adelaide audiences will recognise the name Pole as that of a very talented family who have contributed much to the theatre scene over many decades. It is no surprise that she shows such skill and talent.
Through Pole's strong characterisation, we discover a girl who is academically gifted, but doesn't like to be touched, cannot tolerate rowdy environments, likes to wear the same clothes every day, and only eats hot chips, or pizza with nothing but cheese on it as she hates tomatoes.
Satsy (a stage name) and Jess Lee play Dad and Mum, while Kym Mackenzie, a familiar face in Tutti performances, plays the teacher, and Michael Need and Mikhael Crossfield play Newton and Einstein, respectively. Leeanne Marshall, Jacob Thomas, Andrew Norman, Jason Govett, Alexander Sotiriou, and Sam Batemen complete the ensemble.
All of these performers contribute to the evolving story, bringing out aspects of Nameless and allowing us to gradually build up an understanding of her, personally, and autism, generally. A good script, fine performances, inspired direction, and a very likeable central character, add up to a superb production. It runs until 28th October so catch it while you can.