The first half of this double bill by the Hide and Seek Theatre company attempts to take us into the world of 24-year-old Radha, a girl with severe autism. The piece is performed by Chandni Mistry who was inspired by working with a similarly disabled boy, and it is clear that she has done her research into the condition. Radha cannot speak and so the narration situates us inside her mind, following her disturbing story as Mistry explores the physical and mental aspects of autism. Radha likes crisps, but she likes them raining down onto her head. She loves facts and figures, and she’s memorised all the data of her health programme, reeling off her weight every month for the past couple of years. She loves pyjamas, too, and wears two pairs at a time, but more importantly, she has a fixation on her carer Ella, who has left her job without saying goodbye. Things take on a darker hue after this upset, and the ending is particularly expressive of how difficult such conditions can be; Radha dances ecstatically in her new special care home, not understanding the tragedy of the event which has brought her there.
Mistry’s performance intends to raise awareness of autism and its impact on autistic people and their families, and to a certain extent it does this. However, this should be a serious and deeply disturbing piece, and yet at times it feels like we are being asked to laugh at disabled people and the funny things they do. The poignant ending goes some way towards making up for this, but even that didn’t stop a pint-drinker in the audience from sniggering at her painfully inappropriate jubilation. Mistry’s play has an important message to tell, but at times it feels worryingly offensive.
The second work, The Clock, is another single-hander which purports to be a kind of scary fairy story about Time, a girl locked in a clock and a grandmother. Unfortunately, the entire piece lacks any coherence, moving from ramblings about a seemingly unrelated poem, ‘People on the Bridge’, to the irritatingly dull narrative of the clock in the attic and its dark secret. The only entertaining moments are the rather repetitive mechanical movements which take us through a clock’s complicated cogs and springs, and the touching explanation of how these lovers and their children interact to keep time ticking. Overall The Clock needs serious attention for there to be hope of developing the performance; as it is, it’s not completely a waste of time, but it comes disappointingly close.
Radha is Looking Good/The Clock was at the Pleasance Islington on 22 and 23 February. For more information, visit the Hide and Seek Theatre website.