Written and performed by Samuel Clayton, Catapult Theatre’s debut production, Statements, makes a return to the King’s Head theatre for two performances only, before heading to the Bread and Roses theatre in February.
In this short solo performance, Samuel Clayton takes us through the stories of three children with special educational needs. From Asperger’s to Down Syndrome, we experience the difficulties, barriers, and prejudices faced not only by the children themselves, but by the people who surround them; parents, teachers and classmates.
The children don’t seem to notice, Clayton tells us, “If only the parents were the same”. This painfully honest portrait of life on the spectrum, brims with anger and a sense of hopelessness. But, there is hope, Clayton describes in some detail various methods, such as music, which can be used to integrate the learning experience.
As these various characters drown in a sea of acronyms and bureaucracy, the audience are left wondering, intentionally, who has the child’s best interest at heart. With Ofsted looming it’s regrettably not the teacher, and lack of funds means the teaching assistant is passed off from child to child without ever having the chance to achieve anything with them.
These glimpses we see of each child in Statements, resemble the characters Clayton portrays, with the possible exception of the parents. For each of them only see that child in snippets, before moving on to the next, it creates a real sense of sadness that cannot be resolved in this sixty-minute production
Clayton does a marvellous job of holding the audiences’ attention, quickly switching between a myriad of complex characters, from Daniel and his Asperger’s to the struggling teacher, and overworked SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). He makes eye-contact with his audience frequently, engaging them at the simplest level, and drawing them in to his labyrinthine world.
Giving the children their own voice in this production is especially important, “I might act differently to you, but I still care” says Daniel, while Javeed just wants someone to look at him long enough to communicate through a smile. Clayton gives each child, and each character, a distinct personality which makes it all the easier to grasp their situation.
Statements is an enlightening piece of theatre, which challenges its audience to think a little differently, and exposes the almost alien world that a child with special educational needs faces. Skilfully written, and brilliantly performed this is one of those productions which truly deserves to be seen.
Photos courtesy Catapult Theatre.