Quiet Hands is the third play in the trilogy about autism by Tim Rhys. It tackles the little known, but fast growing epidemic of “mate crime”. Vulnerable autistic and special needs people living on their own get targeted by greedy and unscrupulous people masquerading as their friends.
Tim Rhys’ last play, Touch Blue Touch Yellow portrayed Carl as his family sent him to behavioural therapy to conform to the what society thinks is normal. Repetition is used to make sure that the subject is compliant and loses any of the ticks or behaviours that make them different and individual.
In Quiet Hands, Carl’s mother has died and Carl is left on his own in the house. His bother Russ returns for the funeral after many years of having no contact with Carl. Russ’ girlfriend Abi is very clearly a money grabber who wants to sell the house and get whatever she can out of the situation. Carl has nowhere else to go and Russ does not have the heart to make him move out. Instead, Abi has a brother Mo who will move in. Abi and Mo push Carl to his limits so that he is forced into selling the house and moving out.
Chris Durnall directs with a light touch. The three actors give strong and committed performances, but the structure of the play feels a little rushed and not as tight as the last play. There are a mix of styles, some written as a monologue and some scenes between characters. It somehow feels a little muddled. However, the subject matter still packs a powerful punch.
James Ashton as Russ and Mo is excellent as a half naive and half bitter brother and a menacing Mo who is a mean predator who is also preying on other special needs people. Hannah Lloyd really gives a slimy portrayal of Abi who really only wants Carl out of the house so that she can enjoy half of the money. Joshua Manfield once again gives a convincing and moving performance as Carl who has become compliant through behavioural training. He is powerless to stop Mo and Abi forcing him to take drugs and stealing his possessions because they say they are being his friend.
The staging is simple with just two stage blocks in the space. The set up is in traverse with the audience on 2 sides which makes it very intimate. There are some light bulbs hanging in the space to depict Carl’s love of astronomy which is reminiscent of the last play where the bulbs played a major role.
Overall, this is a powerful piece of theatre that is casting some light onto a little known crime of autistic people being taken advantage of. The irony is that the system has made them fit into what society thinks is the correct way to behave and has made them open and vulnerable to this type of exploitation.
Runs until 16th September
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