Thursday, November 08, 2018

It Only Takes a Minute – an intimate insight into Asperger’s and one girl’s teenage life (C21 Theatre at The MAC until 10 Nov)

Tom Rowntree-Finlay and Anna Kyle’s new play for C21 TheatreIt Only Takes a Minute – shines a light on the life of Michelle, a school girl navigating her pubescent years accompanied by the backing track of Take That’s music.

Beginning in Year 10 (3rd Form in ‘old money’) with her ASD statement, the 50 minute performance is based around Michelle’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the boy band, their music, dance moves, and the security that brings to her.

Anna Kyle voices the conversations inside Michelle’s head and narrates the complex and sometimes rambling logic of thinking through situations and relationships as well as displaying the physical effects of the inner turmoil: pacing, listening to headphones, distress, panic and meltdown.

As a character, Michelle is tone deaf and Kyle does not hold back from belting out Take That hits with tuneless gusto. It’s so awful it’s beautiful. Rowntree-Finlay’s direction doesn’t try to adapt the character to audience expectations, but instead presents Michelle’s different ways of thinking and reacting as starkly as possible, leaving those watching to ask themselves whether any of this should really jar.

A concert scene helps neuro-typicals in the audience understand the sensory overload and oppression that can come with crowds, noise and flashing lights. One young person with Aspergers in the audience commented afterwards that after a few seconds the effect was becoming too much for him until he realised that other people looked uncomfortable and he was delighted that so many had finally experienced what he felt in these settings.

Bliain Fitzpatrick has created a simple tourable set with a poster wall and wooden cubes, painted like a child’s bedroom, one that Michelle is maturing out of. Aaron Cathcart’s lighting design has some lovely moments – including the illumination of the envelope at the start – yet the way it has been tied into the direction at times becomes clumsy with some scene changes deserving a fade to black while other transitions just get an instant change of hue.

It Only Takes a Minute builds up to some moments of emotion, and depicts autism – and particularly Asperger’s – with recognisable realism. As Michelle shifts from school to college, she grows up, the pressures change, but the challenges of navigating an unpredictable world, and the sense of being betrayed, confused and alone remain.

The play begins with Take That’s Patience. Much of modern life happens at speed, with little time spent being intentionally patient with people around us. As a society we are at best insensitive and at worst deliberately ignorant. It Only Takes a Minute and Anna Kyle’s plucky performance is a reminder to value everyone around us, to be alive and appreciative of difference, to ask whether we’re all as ‘normal’ as we think we are!

It Only Takes a Minute continues in The MAC until Saturday 10 November before C21 Theatre Company take it up to Strabane for a final tour performance on Friday 16 November.

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