Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

spoonface cast

Spoonface Steinberg

Stage2 Youth Theatre

Crescent Theatre


WHAT happens within the mind of anyone with autism is a mystery. The condition has been explored in a host of films such as Rain Man or plays such as The Curious Incident of the dog in the night time and, examining the effects on a family, the US play Falling.

But that is looking at autism from our own point of view, and we don’t understand it; what happens in an autistic mind happens in a different world to our own. There is a logic, an understanding, an order but the aria it sings is one we cannomumt hear.

And opera plays a major part in Lee Hall’s play which was originally a radio monologue, the thoughts of one, dying little girl. It was subsequently adapted as a one woman play for the stage, but this is Stage2 where the word monologue somehow never made it into the lexicon, thus we have 18 Spoonfaces and a host of other characters, mum, dad, cleaner, doctors, nurses and passers-by.

Yet the monologue element is still there. The words are still those from Spoonface’s original monologue but sliced up and layered on to the 18 faces of Spoonface and the other cast members, yet still with a rhythmic, continuous flow as if spoken by one person, all with split second precision.

Laura Dowsett as mum surrounded by her multiple Spoonfaces

It was all the more remarkable in that more than half the cast of 31 are still at primary school - but forget any notion of school plays. There are times, such as these, when the only discernible difference between amateur and professional theatre is simply whether anyone gets paid.

Spoonface, so named because her round face looked like a reflection in a spoon, is a seven-year-old autistic girl whose father has gone off with another, younger woman, whose mum has taken comfort in a bottle, and who, to top it all, is diagnosed with terminal cancer – some people really are dealt a real bum hand.

It should be the sort of play where Kleenex are handed out with the programmes but, although it is laced with rich and deep emotion, there is also humour and humanity. Spoonface, we never did find out her real name, contemplates death in a journey which takes in concentration camps, where her doctor’s grandmother was a survivor, and the beauty and exquisite tragedy of opera.

There is nothing morbid, nothing maudlin about Spoonface’s easy relationship with death. It is easy to say she is autistic so doesn’t understand but perhaps, much more than the rest of us, she understands it all too well, indeed, there is an elegant logic to her understanding. In life there is no beginning or end, we are just middle.

The late John Slim reviewed Spoonface the last time it was performed by Stage2 seven years ago when he described it as “quite, quite remarkable”. Apart from the date, and the fact we are all that bit older, nothing seems to have changed. It is still quite, quite, remarkable. Moving and marvellous theatre.

We open with our 18 Spoonfaces, all clad in heavenly white, clutching white pillows on clouds of white duvets to the strains of Bellini’s Casta Diva from Norma, one of the most famous arias in opera. This is a constant musical theme with Spoonface’s view that opera in the olden days gave everyone a little piece of beauty, which was important - even the dying was beautiful - not like today with Take That!

And let’s be honest, when it comes to dying opera has cornered the market from the ever popular TB in a Paris garret to leaping off battlements, being dragged into Hades, poisoned, stabbed and even hara-kiri.

But to Spoonface opera is sad, happy, beauty, an answer to everything, a philosophy for life, we are told, from the opening lines from Spoonface 2 Joel Fleming to her inevitable end, which like Spoonface’s personal opera, is sad but still happy and beautiful.

A pair of leads from Stage2’s Hamlet, Dan Nash who played Laertes, and Laura Dowsett an admirable Ophelia, provide an excellent mum and dad – as well as assistant directors to Liz Light and Mark James.

Dowsett’s emotional breakdown when she discovers Spoonface has terminal cancer is quite magnificent acting. In the close confines of the studio there is no hiding and she was a mere three feet away hugging her doomed daughter and sobbing. She seemed so overwhelmed by waves of crushing despair it was a struggle not to reach out to comfort her – she was that good.

Adriana Ruttledge as the jolly cleaner, Mrs Spud, brought a down to earth logic to proceedings, telling Spoonface “to be different is to be who you are” – and you can’t argue with that.

Then there was the doctor, Dr Bernstein, played by Roni Mevorach, another from Hamlet and a memorable Ariel from The Tempest. With death so close to Spoonface she tells her about her grandmother, an opera singer, who sang to the Jewish children in the concentration camps. The beauty of opera again, and, children dying on an industrial scale from the social cancer of Nazism.

In Spoonface’s mind it puts her own impending demise in perspective. That, she decides, was worse.

The set, in celestial white, is simple - duvets and pillows and simple white table and chairs which serve as everything from bedrooms and houses to cleverly created MRI scanners and radiotherapy suites, aided by some clever lighting from Will Monks while a video wall at the rear gives added context.

This was a small cast by Stage2 standards, a mere 31, a result of the calling of GCSE’s and A levels, but as always everyone had a part to play, and played it to the full, naturally, convincingly and with a joyous enthusiasm - no fixed smile stage school have a nice play here. Every word is heard, everything measured and planned, nothing is lost or wasted, you cared about the characters, and, as always, Stage2 are a delight to watch

The old adage is that amateurs rehearse until they get it right, professionals rehearse until they cannot get it wrong, and in all the years I have been reviewing this talented company, it appears wrong, like monologue, never made it to their lexicon. To 16-07-16

Roger Clarke


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