The Big Things
Baron’s Court Theatre
Reviewed – 19th April 2018
“from bright beginnings this new play strays into troublesome territory”
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a difficult thing to succinctly explain. It’s range of perceptions it inflicts on sufferers towards the world around them vary, and in particular women are often undiagnosed. The Big Things from Kibo Productions explores the condition through the perspective of a couple’s relationship, moving through from their early stages right through to childhood and marriage. As in their relationship, from bright beginnings this new play strays into troublesome territory.
We are plunged straight into the endearing coupling of Malcolm and Grace. She works in the library whereas he is a postman, and it is their differences that attracts them. It is the fact that Grace is different to everyone else that draws Malcolm towards her. Through a series of short, sharp scenes we are led through their relationship in stages, from moving in through to marriage, parenthood and what lies beyond.
Mike Heath’s script moves succinctly from place to place. It jumps from location and time simply, but moves in the end far too quickly, appearing to lose confidence in the second half. It moves from small progressions up to their wedding with confidence but seems desperate in the end to make something happen. So, from the focus on the couple’s relationship we move towards ideas of motherhood, through to how we react to losing the people around us as we grow older. It is a shame, because the focus of the first half feels lost to a wedge of ideas that muddles us later as it tips almost into melodrama.
Sharon Willem’s production is clear and functional but seems to fail to carry the play’s subject matter fully. Some blunt soundtrack choices somewhat diminish some of the emotional impact the piece is aiming for, whereas occasions of discontinuity in how the production deals with the specific form of autism featured, varying the piece wildly. But throughout these are levied by some relatable humour towards an outsider’s approach to everyday interactions.
As a pair May Cunningham and Matthew John Wright have nice chemistry, and draw a couple of fine, detailed performances. They draw in their audience effectively when detailing the smaller moments, including their slight disconnects in perception. A piece of art on a canvas is functional and literal to Grace, whereas it conjures emotion and meaning from Malcom. This conflict coincides with an interesting area to explore for a play, but one that cannot quite stand on its own two feet. There is much for potential development here, but at this stage just feels short.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Photography by Sharon Willems
The Big Things
Baron’s Court Theatre until 5th May