The title of Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat refers directly to the routines that are as vital to the residents in a home for men with “low-functioning” autism as they are to the staff. The drama begins when these routines are interrupted by the arrival of James, a young man who needs holiday work but has no experience of caring for people with disabilities.
The narrative follows James as he gets to know everyone (including himself), and as such it adopts his naive neurotypical perspective. This, coupled with the fact that much of the dialogue is comedic, makes for discomforting watching at times. While non-autistic characters - particularly James - develop during the show, autistic characters are much less dynamic in the narrative. Their actions and changes in mood are often presented as random, inexplicable and dangerous. The play is based on true events but while it may be drawing on real people and experiences (albeit seen through a neurotypical lens), it risks falling back to one-dimensional portrayals of autism.
However, by presenting five characters with a variety of traits and needs, Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat shows some of the diversity of autism even within the low-functioning end of the spectrum. And while most of the residents seen on stage are non-verbal, the play does succeed in giving each of them a distinct character, perhaps again reflecting the people who inspired it. (MR)
Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat. is on at 20.25 at theSpace on the Mile until August 13th. Wheelchair Access, Level Access - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/eat-sleep-bathe-repeat
Cian Binchy, an autistic performer, brought The Misfit Analysis to the Fringe last year: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/we-need-autistic-actors-playing-autistic-roles-on-stage-says-curious-incident-adviser-10454728.html
Sara Barrett calls for authentic autistic voices in popular culture: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/apr/03/autism-voices-books-awareness-week
An interview with Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes, including his dislike of the term “low-functioning”: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/09/02/436742377/neurotribes-examines-the-history-and-myths-of-the-autism-spectrum
Information about autism from the National Autistic Society: http://www.autism.org.uk/