The Turbine Theatre has become a known space for launching brand new shows since its launch, particularly specialising in LGBTQIA+ stories. It is now the home for the world premiere of an exciting new play as A-Typical Rainbow arrives there for a limited season.
Based on real events, A-Typical Rainbow is told predominantly through the character of Boy as we see the world through his eyes. Having to navigate growing up autistic and gay in a world which can be cruel, this play hopes to challenge attitudes and increase the understanding of what it is like to be in the shoes of somebody such as Boy.
Written by JJ Green, this largely autobiographical play chronicles the journey of Boy from 7 years old to adulthood. Along the way, we see through his parents eyes how they feel about raising a child who is autistic and gay, but mostly we see what Boy has to face in his everyday life from cruel classmates to how he sees the world in general. The writing is quite simply exceptional. Brutally honest and filled with authenticity, it is bursting with intelligence with beautiful and moving dialogue managing to penetrate your very soul.
JJ also leads the production, playing the role of Boy. Having written the piece, JJ knows every nuance the character should have which leads to a true masterclass performance as he lets the audience in on a truly intimate piece of his life. This leads to an absolutely mesmerising feat of acting on that stage courtesy of JJ.
A-Typical Rainbow is by no means a one-man show, with the remaining cast members ensuring the acting on that stage never dips below sheer excellence. Caroline Deverill is stunning as Mother, letting us in on the intimate side of dealing with a son with autism and what choices she should make. Raw at times and always with a weight of emotion, she really excels in her performance.
James Westphal has dual roles as Doctor and Father, but it is the latter where he really comes to life. Opposite in many ways to Mother, he struggles to accept Boy for who he really is and this is displayed with a subtle yet captivating performance from James. A monologue about baby birds from him in act two gives us an insight into how the character ticks and is not only recited stunningly but is also one of the finest pieces of writing you will see in the theatre.
The remaining cast members juggle various roles throughout with Conor Joseph changing the tone of the play as Boy’s boyfriend Daniel in the second act, Joy Tan showing fantastic versatility in a variety of roles including Abby and Boy’s brother. The cast are completed by Maya Manuel who gets a standout moment recounting Boys emotional perception as teacher Mrs Whiteman.
Whereas most people see the world in monochrome, Boy sees the world in technicolour, and this is reflected beautifully in the staging. With set design by Frankie Gerrard, the set is split with a rainbow bursting from one side while the other is distinctly grey. Gorgeous lighting from Bethany Gupwell illuminates in every sense of the word as it represents different moods as Boy describes what colours represent to him, while fantastic sound and music from Max Alexander-Taylor lifts the piece and provides excellent transitions from one scene to the next. Fantastic video projections from Matt Powell adds a grandeur to the production that feels bigger than the small space it sits in.
Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, a big part of A-Typical Rainbow is letting us in to the way Boy sees the world, exploring the fantasy worlds he escapes into when the world doesn’t make sense. These are conveyed through expert direction from Bronagh Lagan, brilliantly implemented through changing elements and gorgeous movement from William Spencer. The merging of the fantasy world and reality never feels jarring and is one of the things that makes this show such a success.
The themes in the show can be difficult to watch but serve a greater purpose of increasing understanding and hoping to make the world a bit kinder. Conversations about ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) which is essentially conversion therapy was eye-opening and gritty to witness, while you couldn’t help but feel utterly immersed as you watched Boy attempt to take control of his world. Again, I have to return to the writing which is a next level type of genius. It isn’t all darkness though, with a complete world of colour to ensure the play varies in tone. One highlight is the incredible witty dialogue that is littered throughout, including a hilarious political joke that reflected on the dramatic events of that very day.
I had been following the journey of A-Typical Rainbow from when JJ first teased the concept online. As intrigued as I was to see it fully formed on stage, I was not prepared for just how incredibly special this show would be. Incredible writing, wonderful acting and amazingly staged, this really is a remarkable piece of theatre. Not only that but it is a deeply important story that was a pleasure to see told in a world where autistic stories are not always given the spotlight they should or told with the sensitivity they deserve.
If this play talks about attempting to be kinder in a world that can too often be cruel, this is sure to contribute to these changing attitudes. Whether you have experience with the issues talked about yourself, with a loved one or have no experience at all, A-Typical Rainbow is an absolute must-see for everybody. Immensely powerful and moving, if theatre at its very best can change attitudes and even change lives, this is a show that is sure to do that. One of the very best shows of the year and one that is certain to have a very exciting future life. A big credit to all involved for bringing this crucial show to life and telling it so beautifully.
A-Typical Rainbow plays at the Turbine Theatre until August 7th. A relaxed performance takes place on July 20th with a captioned performance on July 28th.
Tickets are on sale at https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/whats-on/a-typical-rainbow
Photos by Pamela Raith