“Half the things we do for one another are help.”
This phrase was repeated in the play, in the program and by one of the directors in the Q&A session after the show.
Another poignant line from the show comes to mind.
“I don’t have the luxury of hiding the fact I need help.”
Helping Hands is an original work about how autistic and people with other neurodiversities experience help.
Through a series of sketches, we follow the life experiences of three main characters. Sheridan, who is fighting to get government support for her autistic child and learning more about her own neurodiversity. Alice, who takes us on her journey of figuring out for herself what help she needs, and the challenges to finding that.
The character of Donna will stay on my mind for a long time. We meet her as a child and watch as her father desperately tries, misguidedly, to get her help. Later in the play, we see her as an adult. She has found a voice and it is her who shares that second quote.
The script for Helping Hands was devised through collaboration with directors Hannah Aroni, Jess Gonsalvez and James Matthews and the cast – Tara Daniel, Vanessa Di Natale, Emily Griffith, Dee Matthews, Artemis Munoz, Aislinn Murray and Alexander Woollatt. Most of the cast and creative team are autistic. The show is based on their own experiences and consultation with other neurodiverse people.
They’ve delivered a high-quality show with strong, genuine and engaging performances from the entire cast, enhanced by an effective, yet not distracting set and lighting design by John Collopy and costumes by Hannah Aroni, Aislinn Murray, Tara Daniel and Emily Griffith.
The content is unapologetically dense. There are many other characters on top of the three main ones, references to different autism therapies and theories, personal and “professional” perspectives. This enhances the experience. It’s not autism 101. They’re taking the conversation further.
“We think audiences can meet us where we are,” as one of the directors, Hannah Aroni, explained.
“Autistic artists have more to say than that,” another director, Jess Gonsalves, adds.
“We’re asking people to keep up with us,” Aroni concludes.
“Get more diverse stories and experiences on stage,” is Gonsalvez’ mission statement.
Not only have they accomplished that, they’ve made it thought-provoking and entertaining. This is a fine example of original Australian theatre. Even better, it’s an inclusive, intersectional example of original Australian theatre. More please.
Photographer: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea
Available to stream online from 27 August to 6 September 2019 (book now)