Spectrum follows the true story of Temple Grandin (Maeve Belle) who used the unique perspective given to her by her autism to revolutionise and humanise the slaughter industry. Not only is the narrative fascinating, but it is told with such wit and sensitivity that this production is also a wonderful success as an exploration of and insight into what it is to live with autism.
This production achieves the impressive feat of being both utterly hilarious and charmingly sensitive and insightful.
Belle, also the show’s writer, should be highly praised for managing to address a complex subject so successfully and with such wit. Much of the play’s humour is derived from the portrayal of the characters surrounding Temple, who are caricatured to show how nonsensical their actions seem from her perspective. The script’s only weakness comes from the characters with whom Temple has a positive relationship: though at times her interaction with her mother and teacher can be incredibly touching, at others these scenes come too close to cliché. However, for the most part Belle’s writing is spot on, making brilliant use of the way in which idiomatic language doesn’t translate for Temple.
The supporting cast (Dermot Nelson, Samuel Paris Lennox, Jenna Cowie, James Garvock) all perform wonderfully in multiple roles, making great use of accent and physicality. They also work as stage hands, wheeling around two “hugging machines” (a human equivalent of one of the devices Temple designs to calm cows) which when rotated also work as screens and as holders for props. At one point they are used to represent sliding doors, at another the hustle and bustle of a city. Such an inventive and imaginative set is both aesthetically interesting and used to great comic effect. Sound was also used brilliantly, with uncomfortably intense and piercing noise used to represent the pain that Temple experiences from stimuli which don’t affect those without autism.
This production achieves the impressive feat of being both utterly hilarious and charmingly sensitive and insightful. Spectrum is tender and heart-warming and well worth a watch.