This play follows James, an agency worker with no experience or real knowledge of autism, as he is thrown into a job at a care home for adults with low-functioning autism. Four of the cast are carers, struggling with varying degrees of sympathy and understanding to battle through each day of care. As James notes, they have difficulty improving the residents’ quality of life when simply keeping them safe and calm each day is a struggle: in here, routine is crucial.
Each of the care home residents are distinct and their characters are well-acted, with absolutely no lapses into any caricature of autistic behaviour
The entire play takes place in the living room of the care home over a two-month period, as James goes on a journey from confusion and a desire to move to a different job as quickly as possibly, to positive relationships with his co-workers and the residents. Each of the care home residents are distinct and their characters are well-acted, with absolutely no lapses into any caricature of autistic behaviour - always a risk with a play of this kind.
For this, Josh Day’s simply excellent script must take a large share of the credit. Each incident between James and one of the residents or carers contributed to his growing understanding and sympathy for the residents. The characters of both the staff and the residents were subtle and sympathetic, with clear development over the course of the hour-long show. The actress playing Claire, the struggling manager of the care home, who wages a constant battle to keep both the residents and carers safe, was particularly good at portraying wearied experience. The jokes and banter between the carers humanised them and helped to define the all the characters on stage while remaining at all times tasteful and considered.
This was a poignant and hopeful play, from what is clearly an extremely talented student writer/director, about an issue that is not widely appreciated or understood. One flaw was admittedly that that the delivery of quite a few of the more comic lines was off, though the show overall struck the right balance between jokes and more serious content. The enthusiastic applause at the end was warm and entirely deserved. As I left the Space on the Mile I overheard more than one audience member making comments to others along the lines of “really good, yes really good” and “that was just excellent”. You should definitely try and see this show.