Written by Ella Carmen Greenhill and based on her own experiences with her autisic brother, Plastic Figurines is a personal play – one that couples a sensitivity to the the subject matter with the capacity to look at the unvarnished truth. As the fictional brother and sister Rosie and Mikey, Vanessa Schofield and Jamie Samuel only have each other to rely on after the death of their mother.
Living previously in Edinburgh, Rose returns to Manchester to become Mikey's primary carer, though he's anything but a boy now. The play begins on his 18th birthday and it's a stark reminder that 'life painfully goes on', even when death leaves its cruel mark elsewhere.
It is evident that Rose knows her brother through and through, understanding his idiosyncrasies in a heartbeat. But even she has her moments and days when it all becomes a bit much, in addition to grieving for her mother. And Mikey, this boy-man who is on the cusp of adulthood, doesn't always realise the hurtful things he does and says to Rose and others. Now more than ever, he needs an older sister who 'won't pull her punches', but who will (in the words of her mother) "Tell him to f*** off every now and then."
Schofield as Rosie gives an emotionally honest performance of a young woman who is driven by love as well as duty, but seldom thinks of the toll on her well-being. Playing anyone with on the autism spectrum can be a daunting task, but Samuel's performance as Mikey is nuanced and the scenes where he is emotionally fraught, distressing to watch.
Plastic Figurines is an arresting tale of emotional hardship and familial love, yet manages to convey optimism without being mawkish or cloying...
© Michael Davis 2016
Plastic Figurines runs at the New Diorama Theatre until 22nd October 2016.