When I think back to being 7 years old, life was pretty simple. I was an only child, and the closest thing I had to a big brother was my Dad. As Hannah (Rachel Hammond) welcomes us into her world, I immediately feel a part of her family, “So this is what it’s like to have siblings" I think to myself. But of course, Hannah has anything but the average family. This semi autobiographical show allows Hammond to share her (and other people's) experiences of having an autistic sibling. Not only does she let us into her world, but she helps us to understand her brother's, and it is truly heartwarming.
Hannah is 7 years old. She’s at that age where she understands, but is still learning the basics. The best place for us to start. When it comes to her autistic brother, Joshua, there are rules. And as Hannah slowly discovers these, we gain a deeper understanding of what life must be like for them. Any sudden change and Joshua can’t cope.
Dinner is at 5pm.
“What’s for dinner? Joking,” they have the same each week.
No music in the house.
It’s Joshua and never Josh.
These are just a few of the rules that start to mould their lives, and even as the children become teenagers, it’s hard for them to let go of, and break into freedom.
No music in the house, is perhaps the hardest rule of all. Hammond entwines the piece with original songs, and underscores of family favourites, to beautifully accompany the narrative. A loop pedal is used to keep track of this growing list of rules, and with multiple rules overlapped and repeated, you can begin to see how it can take a toll on a family. But as Joshua gets older, and their parents seek help from specialists in America, the rules begin to dwindle, and life becomes a bit more manageable.
Of course, the plot isn’t without its twists and turns and despite it being a one women show, we really gain a deep connection to all the characters; I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two towards the end.
I was pleasantly surprised by this show, and I definitely have a deeper appreciation for the level of care that is needed. I have glimpsed into a world I felt very under-educated in, and for that I thank the whole team involved.
Their mission statement: understand Joshua’s world.
You can catch Joshua (and Me) at The Hope Theatre, with relaxed performances, until the 19th February. Tickets available here.
Photo by Lidia Crisafulli