Until relatively recently in Western society, children with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, or a wide range of neural and behavioural challenges, were either institutionalised in "special" schools or abandoned to the back of the classroom. Since the 1980s, a more "inclusive" ideology has brought children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) into mainstream education; arguably, the problem with this policy is that it's seldom, if ever, come with sufficient financial resources to make it work.
An energetic masterclass in character performance
Written and performed by Samuel Clayton, Statements is a one-man play which aims to explain the challenges of current SEN support from a wide range of perspectives: Clayton portrays a several teachers and support staff on the front line, parents, and – most importantly – three boys under the age of 10 with SEN. This is clearly a well-researched piece (Clayton has worked alongside children with SEN for several years) but the resulting knowledge is carried lightly and, despite the set consisting of a just a single wooden chair and a flip-chart, presented with significantly more "show" than "tell".
Agency-supplied teaching assistant Chris, although by no means the first character we encounter, ends up being the link between the three boys with SEN, as he is assigned to each in turn despite a lack of support or training that could otherwise help him make a real difference to their lives. There's Daniel, who has Aspergers and a remarkable connection with music; Javid, the refugee with Down's Syndrome who has never been to school before; and Toby, whose anger issues are arguably best summed up in his comment that "It's hard to say sorry, easy to make a scene."
Most of Clayton's targets are pretty obvious: not least the assertion that the use of professional acronyms, industrial terminology and grand-sounding initiatives can easily, dangerously turn "children" into "case studies". Beautifully written and directed, the show's simple staging focuses our attention on Clayton's respectful, distinct portrayals; an energetic masterclass in character performance. Despite its somewhat downbeat conclusions, Statements remains a poignant, ultimately exhilarating perspective on the world; most importantly, one that simply refuses to preach.