Sunday, 23 October 2016

Burning Bridges by Amy Shindler- Theatre Review

Burning Bridges stars a woman with autism. That was what intrigued me into seeing this play, since I have Asperger's Syndrome myself.
The trouble is, the story doesn't actually centre around her.

25-year-old Sarah arrives at her sister Kate's home so she can get back on her feet after a bout of offscreen online gambling. Obsessed with Tamagotchi and One Direction to the point where she has a meltdown when both those worlds come crashing down, she turns the worlds of her sister and brother in law upside down, even though they don't make any attempt to try and understand her. Why put up fences when you can build bridges, indeed?

Sarah, who is bizarre and unique even for an autistic woman, ends up building too good of a bridge when she gets uncomfortably close with her brother in law, Dan, and invites him to a drinking game while her sister is away, inevitably causing drama between the three people. Not just tension, but drama.

It's never shown what happened between Sarah and Dan, but she claimed she was taken advantage of to cover up the truth about them.

We learn that Sarah was put in a care home when she was a child and resents Kate, whom she had previously loved, for sending her there after the death of their mother. But it turned out that their mother decided to put her in the care home and, in true Theatre 503 tradition, tries unsuccessfully to kill herself. And yet Kate and Dan dispute about whether or not the affair between himself and Sarah was consensual or not, if indeed it ever happened. Kate questions herself after Sarah reveals that she has the ability to lie.

The play revolves less around Sarah and more around Kate and Dan's relationship. Kate loses her job spending too much time looking after Sarah, who is shown to cause problems in their relationship, despite not being a bad person, just clueless about other people's feelings.

Sarah herself is interesting. She's smart, but not a savant. She has the typical autistic trait of being completely blunt and seemingly insensitive towards other people's feelings. She seems independent and together, yet is unable to take care of herself. She's surprisingly flirtatious, though it's possible that she's copying what she's seen other girls do. Her personality is almost inconsistent. It's as though Shindler knows someone who's autistic yet has not quite grasped their experiences as an autistic person, and she feels more comfortable writing about the experiences of more "normal" people. Probably due to the fact that not many autistic playwrights get their works produced.

There wasn't anywhere in the play which showed which sensations- which sights, sounds, smells, etc.- Sarah couldn't bear. Sensory sensitivity is a common and consistent trait in people with Asperger's Syndrome. There are people who can't stand the feel of velvet, or the texture of certain foods, or loud consistent noises. I don't remember any of that being discussed in the play.

The actors were excellent, especially Rae Brogan as Sarah, despite weaknesses in the script.