Echolalia (3 stars)

This article is from 2013


Exploring Asperger's through clowning and dance

Clown shows don't always have to be about going for the big laughs, as Jen McArthur demonstrates in this thoughtful tender solo piece about living with Asperger's syndrome.

McArthur has researched her subject thoroughly – working with autistic children on a holiday camp – and even in the opening moments manages to capture both the anxious daily challenges and the heightened sensory pleasures experienced by people with the condition. After Echo's strictly ordered morning routine, centred around the number eight, it's ‘swing time’, and she is free to career gaily about on a swivel chair without a care in the world.

Through clowning, McArthur manages to conjure up a strange and unfamiliar realm without patronising either her subject or her audience. When Echo tries to learn social niceties – ‘lift the corners of your mouth, knit your brows ’– she holds a mirror up to the arbitrary nature of such conventions, showing how hard it is to mechanise them if they don't come naturally. Though the narrative feels ragged at times, McArthur's genuine passion for sharing an understanding of Asperger's shines through.

C aquila, 0845 260 1234, until 26 Aug, 3.40pm, £7.50–£9.50 (£3.50–£7.50).


  • 3 stars

Jen McArthur & Kallo Collective (New Zealand). Jen McArthur uses clown, physical theatre and dance to portray the subject of Asperger's Syndrome and the pitfalls of etiquette. Inspired by the humour and directness of autistic children while working on a holiday program, McArthur's delightful character Echo doesn't…