The dimly lit, almost claustrophobic studio hosts a cluttered stage, boasting Lego blocks, hangings of vibrant, animated drawings, and a lonely wooden chair. A young girl sits in the middle, intently colouring and seemingly oblivious to the sudden surge of chattering, clamorous baboons which, for her, comprise the audience. She sits patiently, swaying to blasting operatic wails, waiting for the entering crowd to take on their role as an attentive audience. This primary snapshot of the character and the billowing tunes of opera music which, accompanied by a soporific ambience, surround the theatre, at once predict the obscurity of the play. And we feel like we already know Spoonface Steinberg.
Alice Porter’s stunning and evocative performance as Spoonface, an autistic girl who is plagued with cancer, is able to grip the audience’s attention from the start. This one-woman play is characterized by its extended dramatic monologue that allows the divulging of emotion and exposes the brilliant, twisted mind of Spoonface; named so due to her physical appearance being akin to a reflection of a face on a spoon- distorted.
The play takes the audience on a melodramatic rollercoaster, allowing themes of familial vexation, contemplation of infinite nullity and – more morbidly – the intoxication with the idea of death all to define the expansive boundaries of the script. It simultaneously harnesses twists and turns of dark humour and the isolated grievance of desolation.
Porter is able to take us on a philosophical journey that makes us question the purpose of life and understand our part in this world. Whether through her fervent squeals of laughter when she sees a butterfly or through her dreary illustrations of concentration camps, the audience buys into this idea of a wonderful life that exists through unity and reason. The innocent character of Spoonface allows the audience to revisit childhood and reconnect with the brighter, happier sparks of life.
The play is continuously heightened by the shuttering sound of thunder and the pitter-patter of raindrops, acting as an aid to transfer the transcendent theme of melancholy – along with an incongruous feeling of fulfillment.
Going through an existential life crisis? I would definitely recommend ‘Spoonface Steinberg’. Because the sad things are the most beautiful of all.
Spoonface Steinberg is showing at the Burton Taylor Studio until Saturday 26th October. Tickets £6/5. More information and ticket bookings available here.