A-Typical Rainbow is an authentic, much-needed theatrical representation of autism.

Credit: Pamela Raith

JJ Green stars as Boy in his playwriting debut, staged at the Turbine Theatre. The Turbine theatre prides itself on bringing new work to its stage, and here is this play’s world premiere, directed by Bronagh Lagan. William Spencer’s ethereal choreography accompanied by Max Alexander-Taylor’s other-worldly sound designs make for stunning scenes. 

The play centres around Boy who is autistic and queer. A-Typical Rainbow takes place in the early 2000s, when, unfortunately, autism was still under researched and misunderstood. Mother (Caroline Deverill) is faced with the heartbreakingly, difficult choice of whether or not to put her son through Applied Behaviour Analysis, a controversial therapy which is said to improve neurodivergent children’s social skills. Although the Doctor insists upon it and essentially bullies Mother into relenting, she can’t help but feel like he shouldn’t have to change – the world should accommodate him instead. I loved how we got to see a lot of her perspective and the unique pressures that mothers of neurodivergent children face.

The show also touches on the toxic masculinity Father (James Westphal) tries to force upon Boy; he takes away his Barbie and unsuccessfully attempts to get him to play football. Scenes like these, as well as the ABA therapy, are very infuriating and made me thankful that we have progressed (albeit there is still very far to go). 

A-Typical Rainbow takes us through scenes in Boy’s life; from a child playing with mermaids and picking out pink wellies, to a bad sleepover experience at secondary school, to a young adult falling in love with his fellow circus performer. JJ Green proves a double threat with his beautiful writing and brilliant acting. His side quips are hilarious. Although people who are not autistic will never fully understand, he does a fantastic job explaining, through his actions and verbal explanations, what it is like to be autistic. A-Typical Rainbow shows that there is nothing wrong with being autistic – or queer, or being a boy who likes to play with barbies, or wanting people to say exactly what they mean. 

My only gripe with the play is that it became slightly confusing at the end. A series of scenarios were given that ‘should have been’, it felt a little jarring and didn’t really provide a satisfying conclusion to finish the play off nicely. However, this is an incredibly strong playwriting debut.

A-Typical Rainbow is on at the Turbine Theatre until 7 August, so head to beautiful Battersea to see this honest, important and thought-provoking play. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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