Winner of the Kings Cross Award for New Writing (2011), Einstein’s Daughter tells the story of a father’s struggle to maintain order in his autistic daughter’s life. But when an old friend turns up out of the blue, she threatens to disrupt the calm and order forever..
Performed by the award-winning Freerange Theatre Company, and with their maiden performances in Manchester, Einstein’s Daughter belies its stark staging with a deep and moving story. Einstein’s Daughter is a terrific fit for their rural touring ethos. Author Rob Johnston’s writing is rich and meaningful. Seemingly innocuous scenes are sensitively handled and portrayed whilst the more memorable climatic moments are perfectly pitched to a shocked audience.
Emma Parker’s portrayal of autistic Maggie was intricate and detailed, from her shuffling gait through to her clipped speech patterns, Parker portrays her with care. She makes a difficult character likeable and endearing whilst carefully handling her fragile emotional state. Her staccato delivery where she can recount specifics in the key moments of her life makes her portrayal of autism all the more believable.
Director Hugo Chandor gives a stellar performance as Maggie’s lecturer father Andrew. Initially the genial, loving father, we are treated to downward spiral of emotions as his character develops. To say too much would spoil the experience, but his character will leave you feeling disgusted and dirty. A triumphant performance.
Amy Spencer gives an excellent performance as the brash and loud, and initially downright irritating, Kath. However, her leopard print and layers of make-up are stripped away as the play progresses, as she; ironically enough becomes one of the more sympathetic and stronger characters of the play.
Towards the end there are moments that will shock and surprise you and leave you breathless. I’m not going to spoil them here, but rarely has a piece of theatre emotionally engaged me so such that I am physically shook at the end. Certainly the more intimate atmosphere of the Lass O’Gowrie theatre pays dividends for the claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere Einstein’s Daughter creates.
It is clear that Director Chandor and his cast have worked hard. There is a whole visual subtext of touch to further reinforce Maggie’s autistic nature, and the themes of control and order. Tightly staged, subtle lighting adds, or concentrates the atmosphere, the pulsing and searing light almost reflecting Maggie’s mental state at times.
This is the beauty of what the Greater Manchester Fringe is doing in playing new plays and experiences to audiences – without it, the play might have escaped my attention, but this is one of the hidden gems of the festival. Whilst the future for the characters is uncertain, the future for the play is extraordinarily bright. Absolutely outstanding.
The Fiction Stroker gives Einstein’s Daughter five strokes out of five:
Einstein’s Daughter is on at 2pm and 7pm on 7 July as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe at the Lass O’Gowrie, or running at the 12th/13th and 19th-21st July at The Old Clubhouse as part of the Buxton Fringe.
Further information on extra dates for Einstein’s Daughter and The Freerange Theatre Company can be found on http://www.freerangetheatre.co.uk
With thanks to Trudy Chandor for her assistance.