The global lockdown period was such a strange time for the theatre industry as performers had to quickly adapt to the online format rather than being in front of an audience. One of the few good things to do from this period of time was the invention of zoom theatre! Just over six months ago I review a production called moon child (which is available at https://rhysreviews.com/2022/02/14/the-moonchild-productions-review/) where I talked about the genius ways in which the zoom platform can be used to create immersively and truly interaction theatre experiences. This online format allowed for people from all over the world to access a wider range of new productions regardless of their geographical location and I think this is something that needs to continue even after all the covid restrictions have been completely lifted! Those who are have read our recent posts will know that I am currently teaching across Hungary (if you are interested you can read the first of our blogs at https://rhysreviews.com/2022/07/26/hungary-2022-part-one/) and so it is fairly difficult for us to continue to review the volume of shows but thanks to the the use of another online format I was able to virtual join the cast and crew of the new adaptation of an American play “Sorting it out” written by Matteo Esposito!
This play marks my third partnership with Matteo (the first of which was for his original play the mix-up which you can read about at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/10/02/the-mix-up-production-review/ and the second being the aforementioned moon child) and it is clear that the domestic setting is where his work is most effective. The majority of this play takes place in the confines of someone’s home which is very clever considering the message that the writer is aiming to promote. Despite being a very early reading of the new play, It is clear that the takeaway point from “sorting it out” is the idea of being kind to others and so if the play was set on a far-off, distant/futuristic planner some audience members may struggle to take the message from the play and applying it in their real life. This inclusion helps the moral element of the show to go from simply a tokenistic gesture to an important life lesson! Secondly, the language used within the script is intentional simplistic meaning that every person can understand the narrative and therefore pick up on the underlying message. It appears that Matteo is very passionate about creating theatre that aims to tackle misconceptions of the ASD (autism spectrum community) community in a way that is not only accurate but also authentic by offering an outlet for autistic tendencies to be seen/understood!
This experience took on the form of a first reading of a new version of this play and so all of the performative elements were stripped back. Similar to my experience with the power of o (with the review available at https://rhysreviews.com/2022/07/09/the-power-of-o-experience-review/) this was an opportunity for the creative team to receive direct feedback from the audience and gauge how the play would have been received to a live audience. With the support of virtual theatre lab, Matteo and the crowd were able to see an almost staged version of the play and to identify any improvements that needed to be made. Unlike the power of O however, this production contained a quartet of performers who each took on a different role within the show. The stage directions are read aloud so that the audience can have a greater understanding of how this play would work on stage which is particularly important consider the online format of the performance! Generally speaking, it is clear that the community of both performance and audience members are extremely close as there were conversations before the show which would have made for a great place for Matteo to showcase his work without the fear of intense criticism.
Even at this stage the show contains a very important message of acceptance with the character of Ed (played by John Carol) starting the show by shunning Nick (a character with ASD played by Sivert Das) only to end up requiring similar support at the climax of the story. As a character, Ed develops from being extremely rude and ignorant where learning about ASD tendencies but by the end learns to accept and support those who need additional support. John managed to capture these two polar aspects of the character perfectly with the audience being pulled in the right emotional direction at the correct points on the story. Sivert managed to excellently avoid the trap of becoming an ASD stereotype within the story and instead delivers a very honest and authentic representation of some of the autistic traits. These two characters work fantastically alongside one another to portray the two stages of their relationship (despite being in two different physical locations!) The character of Frank is played the wonderfully by Jack Levine who is the almost middle man between Ed and Nick who helps to drive the narrative which they do with the ease!
Overall, the reading of “sorting it out” contains a very powerful message about accepting those that we may not understand as at some point we may also require additional support. Coming from a writer with ASD, this new play contains accurate and positive representations of those within this community while explaining key ideas such as “stimming” and hesitations around physical contact. I would rate this production 3 out of 5 stars and cannot gwait to see how this play progresses in the near future!