Fringe 97

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am

Glassworks Nestle Dairy Farm Theatre Fringe Club, January 21 I rushed headlong into the Nestle Dairy Farm Theatre to see David Glass' 7pm show, and overlooked the A4 paper programmes sitting in a small pile on a table.

This is a shame because had I read his comments about Lucky's Dance in advance I might have had a more generous response to this extraordinarily accurate portrayal of autism.

Instead, I felt deeply disturbed that - coming immediately after Hands, an amusing and virtuoso display of mime - this portrayal of an unhappy child in his own comfortless world might have been categorised as entertainment.

But, as the notes explained (later), this piece - with its original music by Sarah Collins - was developed after Glass had spent time working with children with special needs.

As an exploration of the terrors and nightmares that autistic children experience, and also as a metaphor of every person's difficulties connecting with the outside world, Glass's performance was moving and memorable. But perhaps it should not have been sandwiched so casually between comedy.

Enter Dr Philip is a piece Glass has been performing for more than a decade. It predates Mr Bean, and is as funny. Dr Philip is a psychiatrist moving into a new office and waiting for his first patient; his nervousness at his first day in the job takes physical shape. This is the world of nose bleeds that go splat, and body bits that do things they should not.

At one point he is taken over by his tongue, which shoots out uncontrollably. The more he pushes it back, the more determinedly it pops out of his mouth. We cried with laughter, believing completely in his imagined, toon world, where he is victim rather than controller.

'Where did they go, the words?' he asks at one point in the scene. It is the wail of many a mime artist, and yet Glass is a physical performer who uses words freely: he uses his art to tell stories, to create worlds, rather than be restricted by purist rules about what mime 'should be'.