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A-Typical Rainbow- play review


Being autistic isn't easy, and yet brings a beautiful aura to the world, as shown in JJ Green's debut play, A-Typical Rainbow. Weaving through the troubles and misunderstandings of life, by entering an imagination filled with magic, the central character, played by JJ himself, depicts elements of his story from age 7, as his journey to find who he is supposed to be growing up begins experiencing different paths.

Astounding imagery, given the space provided, and the frequent rearrangement of several boxes, turns the stage into a hub for exploration through forests; swimming with mermaids; running with wolves or riding dragons. The vivid pictures that appear really hone in on the ability to escape in his mind that 'Boy' has, to be freely himself, and push away the hounding negative emotions from society. Movements perfectly encapsulate the audience, and immerse as if you are feeling the colours with the same encompassing emotion as him in all their glory.

Sometimes using visual metaphors to explain situations, or talking directly to the audience in monologue, a series of additional creative methods are used to draw you in to each and every line of the script. Through torment at school to seeing 'Boy' and his mother (fantastically portrayed by Caroline Deverill) face the emergence of diagnosis and questioning ABA therapy, it is eye-opening as to how the public behaviour surrounding autism is, and how, since the 90s, there is still a lot of work to do on this today. His father (James Westphal, who also performs as the doctor) has a difficult relationship with his son, and struggles to come to terms with both his autistic behaviours, and hints towards his sexuality. Both parents speak of their own feelings with regards to their family, therefore sharing a rounded set of perspectives to illustrate further the wider influence of having to work together to support an autistic child. Joy Tan and Maya Manuel also join the cast as various different characters.

Meltdowns with friends, or later, a boyfriend (played by Conor Joseph) are seen to have a huge impact on the character, and how open he feels to being true to himself, or having to hide away and blend in. With all this bubbling up around him, 'Boy' has some decisions to make, that couldn't have broached in a better manner.

Sublimely sensitive portrayal comes from neurodiverse creatives and cast members, and JJ's semi-autobiographical writing makes the piece particularly special for this much needed representation. While accurately portraying life as an autistic person, and the suppression that is forced to occur to fit with the mould that weighs him down, it is vital that the alternative is also shown, as the unique and wonderful view through autistic eyes is rarely noticed.

Act one was delivered to perfection: not a single fault with the writing or dramatisation could be found. However, the narrative seems to dwindle a little going into the second, still being staged well and with the initial rooted ideas sticking, but just lacking something, perhaps as it begins to stray into a more undefined subplot and changes tone to before. This doesn't largely detract from the purposefulness of the piece though, nor lessen the overall impact of the play.

Directed by Bronagh Lagan, who always does a brilliant job in her role, A-Typical Rainbow gives an unmatched insight into being gay and autistic, where both are still identities that are viewed as subordinate in many areas. It is touching, and thoughtful, and certainly worth watching.


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