The power of many tells the story of two businessmen who go out for a meal together and discover an autistic worker cleaning tables. One of the businessmen quickly becomes very uncomfortable with the thought of someone with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) working for his firm and so begins to harass the poor worker. As the story progresses, however, in classic Matteo style, we see a drastic change of fate which forces Dexter to re-evaluate his life choices. After being involved in a deadly car crash (and the loss of his close friend Larson), Dexter finds himself in a wheelchair and needed additional support from people around him which was one of his issues with the worker with ASD earlier in the play. I personally believe that the inclusion of the car crash was an intentional choice by Matteo as it could quite easily happen to anyone and therefore helps to drive home the message of kindness, especially to those with additional learning needs. The power of many marks the fourth production created by up-and-coming playwright Matteo Esposito who seems to have mastered the art of creating totally accessible and relatable pieces of theatre. The majority of the scenes within this read-through take place in everyday settings such as the home, an office, a restaurant etc without giving them potentially regional location names, unlike many productions we have seen before. Instead of saying a location is within a specific local diner or a popular American company’s office, they are general (yet somehow familiar places) the audience cane relates to. The language within the script is intentionally simplistic and accessible which further helps the message behind this show to be spread to a much wider audience and means more people will be able to see themselves in at least one of the characters involved.
As with the previous projects we have worked on alongside Matteo with (most recently sorting it out which you can read about at https://rhysreviews.com/2022/08/01/sorting-it-out-production-review/) these events have been online read-throughs of the play in order to drum up excitement for when they finally make it to the stage. The fact that this read-through took place via zoom meant that the performers were all on physically different locations. To help paint a vivid picture in the audience’s minds of what to expect from the play we had Kellie McCoy read our stage directions, setting descriptions and the attires of each character which really helped the audience to imagine what the final stage of this play would be like. As everyone was in separate locations, it was important for the audience to know where the action is supposed to be taking place and being informed by Kellie really helped every to visualise what was going on! The fact that Matteo had created the power of many to include a circular narrative (where the characters return at the end of the play to where the entire show started in the restaurant) was not only a very clever nod to how common this terrible mistreatment of additionally able people is but also helps bring the story to a nice, cohesive end which the audience will appreciate.
The whole show opens with the two affluent businessmen Dexter and Larson (played by the wonderful James Donnelly and Phillip Bartolf respectively) sitting at the restaurant catching up over a few drinks. Despite being to two very different physical locations, the two performers were able to capture the familiarity and relationship between these two long-term friends with dialogue that was exactly how normal, everyday people speak to one another. I cannot fathom the pressure of having to showcase a new play at the best of times and the fact that these two actors are able to perform as of there are sat beside one another (which they are not! Instead they are simply saying talking to a webcam) shows fantastic acting abilities from both actors. We quickly learn that Dexter is much more focused on money and business than his kindness to others so the fatal accident later in the story forced him to change his mind as he is now in a very similar situation which he moaned about earlier. The role of Josh (the worker with ASD) was played by none other than the writer of the entire show Matteo Esposito. Not only has Matteo spent countless hours writing and editing this show, but he also performed as one of the key characters in the show. As someone with ASD himself, Matteo is able to offer a much more honest and insightful perspective on how ASD can affect people which helped with to explain concepts such as unusual fascinations, stimming and not being able to understand sarcasm/jokes. These elements are explored in an educational yet informative which I believe is personally down to Matteo and his multiple roles within the production.
Overall, the power of many reminds everyone to be kind to one another as one day we may rely on the very people we once ridiculed. This story does contain a happy ending with Dexter realising the error of his ways and I wish we were in a position as humankind to be kind to people purely for the purpose of being nice rather than invade the rides but if this is how we help to combat the horrendous treatment of those on the ASD spectrum then I am all for it! As this was an online reading, there was very little in terms of production value but we look forward to the day that this play makes it to the stage as I can already imagine the accessible and recognisable staging that could be used. I would rate this production 3.5 stars out of 5!