Spoonface knows that people in operas die beautifully and she wants to die beautifully too. Diagnosed with autism, and later terminal cancer, the child walks along silver linings in this hour-long monologue. Tackling the difficulties of development disabilities and terminal illness, Spoonface’s optimism never falters, as the backing track of Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ lulls us into a romantic view of death.
More than 1 in 100 people in the UK live with autism, and they often have difficulty communicating and reading emotions. Because of this, Spoonface’s language is simple. Linear trains of thought are very clearly laid out, in order to prevent the world from being overwhelming.
In the periphery of Spoonface’s monologue is recognition of the difficulty of caring for an autistic child and how that is part of the reason for her parents’ split. While the common claim that 80% of autism families divorce was found to be false in a recent study, having an autistic child without doubt puts extra pressure on a couple. David Mitchell writes about telling people his child’s diagnosis. ‘The replies come quickly but read awkwardly: condolences are inappropriate in the absence of a corpse, and there aren't any So Sorry Your Offspring Has Turned Out Autistic e-cards.’
Named after her unusually rotund face, Spoonface tells us about her short life. Lee Hall, most famous for Billy Elliot, wrote this monologue for radio in 1997 but here Sasha Brooks performs as Spoonface in pyjamas, radiating innocence and vulnerability. Though covering desperately sad topics, this monologue tries to be optimistic, picking up on the positive parts of this life dotted with misfortune. Spoonface values her individuality, saying, ‘to be different is to be who you are’. Mitchell, too, is sympathetic to this idea, noting that gradually you discover that each child with autism ‘possesses its own singular beauty, its own life-enriching experiences.’ (KW)
Spoonface Steinburg played at theSpace @ Jury's Inn through August 27 - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spoonface-steinberg
Information about autism http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx##Prevalence
A review of the original radio play http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/dont-be-afraid-of-spoonface-1165152.html
Autism spectrum disorder http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autistic-spectrum-disorder/pages/introduction.aspx
Autism’s effect on a family http://www.aamft.org/members/familytherapyresources/articles/08_FTM_3_18_22.pdf
Divorce rates of parents with autistic children http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/children/7926161/Parents-of-autistic-children-more-likely-to-divorce.html
David Mitchell: Learning to live with my son’s autism https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/29/david-mitchell-my-sons-autism