REVIEW: A-TYPICAL RAINBOW (Turbine Theatre)

A-Typical Rainbow is the debut play by autistic writer JJ Green. Having its world premiere at the Turbine Theatre and starring Green, his play explores his own real-life events and those from the autistic community to ask the question: could a kinder, more joyful world lie at the end of the rainbow?

A-Typical Rainbow revolves around Boy as he navigates and sees the world differently from most people. Where they see monochrome, he sees the world in vivid and brilliant technicolour with mermaids, wolves and dragons galore. As Boy grows up, he faces increasing pressure to conform to the black and white logic of the ‘real’ world, a way of thinking that doesn’t make sense to him and forces him to suppress his unique and beautiful personality.

Joining JJ Green as Boy is Caroline Deverill as Mother, James Westphal as Father/Doctor, Conor Joseph as Jake/Daniel, Joy Tan as Abby/Thomas/Lara and Maya Manuel as Emily/Mrs Whiteman/Rachel. As an ensemble, the cast works well to bring Green’s vision to life, jumping in and out of multiple characters and accents with effervescent ease. Supporting Green, the ensemble create a vivid and encompassing world around Boy with gorgeous choreography and costume by William Spencer and Frankie Gerrard. Where the play shines, is in it’s treatment of relationships and depictions of love throughout. As we grow to know Boy, we discover the relationships he holds with his parents, friends, doctors, lovers and eventually himself. Greens writing shows flashes of intimacy, joy, self-confidence and understanding which is most affecting in the plays monologues. Performed with nuance, care and love by Conor Joseph as Daniel, James Westphal as Father, Carline Deverill as Mother and Green himself as Boy.

Overall A-Typical Rainbow succeeds in depicting the beginnings of an autistic young mans life as he navigates a world that still largely misunderstands the condition. Tender moments are dotted throughout, however they’re often over-shadowed by a two hour run time, heavy handed symbolism and repeated metaphors. These aspects give the impression of an educational production, better suited to a school class room. What sets A-Typical Rainbow apart however is Boy’s young innocence and eventual discovery of his sexuality, which is explored tenderly however all too briefly in Act Two.

Given a caring dramaturg or more time to workshop and develop, I think A-Typical Rainbow has a lot of potential and I hope to see more from JJ Green in the future. In A-Typical Rainbow, he has crafted a tender, self-aware coming of age story that’s creative in delivery and nuanced in storytelling. Filled with mermaids, wolves and dragons A-Typical Rainbow takes audiences Over The Rainbow in a very special debut production.

Reviewed by Stuart James