Autism is a developmental disability that impacts how someone might communicate, perceive situations, react to stimuli such as bright lights and loud sounds, anxiety levels – particularly when in unknown situations, take longer to process information and repeat certain actions or thoughts over again (NHS). Autism, or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a spectrum, with experiences different dependent on the person. An exploration of the journey taken to learn how best to care for and support a family member with ASD, Rachel Hammond presents Joshua (and Me), a vital, hearty production placing Joshua’s experience with ASD at the fore.
Surrounded by giant colourful Lego blocks and kept grounded by a large, round carpet centre stage, Hammond welcomes us into her family’s world. Brought up in a household by mum and dad, Hammond has two elder siblings – Ben and Joshua. Anecdotes of playtimes, playing spies when they were younger instantly giving the show its playful air. Hammond’s gradual realisation of elder brother Joshua accessing the world differently to everyone else, very endearing to listen to. We hear of Joshua being quieter in social situations, not dealing well with sudden changes, particularly when it comes to dinner times, acting differently to how perhaps others would in social scenarios – acting on his own rhythm and utilising visual timetables to help access situations that much better. Even though the character of Joshua isn’t on stage, we gain an idea or who he is, and that’s powerful to experience.
Dinnertimes punctuate the hour, we see here that this moment in the day, everyday, really binds he family together. We get an idea of the family dynamic and just how much Hammond cares for Joshua. Music also is a resounding theme throughout, Hammond looping phrases throughout, taking to the piano and playing the saxophone – at one point taking part in a talent competition in the play – showcasing the role music and art plays within the household. We gain a real sense of Hammond’s responsibility as a carer here, how much she loves Joshua and the whole family, and how they’ve navigated strategies to help support Joshua. A great show and resource for anyone with ASD, a family member with ASD or anyone who works in the care profession.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Joshua (and Me) was shown on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th February 2023 at the Studio/Vault Festival. To find out more about her production, visit here…