Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

High Praise for "Extremely Talented" Josh Day

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Act One- Cardiff University- Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat. , Space on the Mile , August-10-16
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Act One- Cardiff University- Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Repeat. From Broadway Baby 10th August

“This play follows James, an agency worker with no experience or real knowledge of autism, as he is thrown into a job at a care home for adults with low-functioning autism. Four of the cast are carers, struggling with varying degrees of sympathy and understanding to battle through each day of care. As James notes, they have difficulty improving the residents’ quality of life when simply keeping them safe and calm each day is a struggle: in here, routine is crucial.

The entire play takes place in the living room of the care home over a two-month period, as James goes on a journey from confusion and a desire to move to a different job as quickly as possibly, to positive relationships with his co-workers and the residents. Each of the care home residents are distinct and their characters are well-acted, with absolutely no lapses into any caricature of autistic behaviour - always a risk with a play of this kind.

For this, Josh Day’s simply excellent script must take a large share of the credit. Each incident between James and one of the residents or carers contributed to his growing understanding and sympathy for the residents. The characters of both the staff and the residents were subtle and sympathetic, with clear development over the course of the hour-long show. The actress playing Claire, the struggling manager of the care home, who wages a constant battle to keep both the residents and carers safe, was particularly good at portraying wearied experience. The jokes and banter between the carers humanised them and helped to define the all the characters on stage while remaining at all times tasteful and considered.

This was a poignant and hopeful play, from what is clearly an extremely talented student writer/director, about an issue that is not widely appreciated or understood. One flaw was admittedly that that the delivery of quite a few of the more comic lines was off, though the show overall struck the right balance between jokes and more serious content. The enthusiastic applause at the end was warm and entirely deserved. As I left the Space on the Mile I overheard more than one audience member making comments to others along the lines of “really good, yes really good” and “that was just excellent”. You should definitely try and see this show.”

Steph J Watkins for “A Younger Theatre” 9th August

“They’re not aliens, they just have other priorities to us.”

The topic of autism seems to intimidate a lot of people, simply due to a lack of individual understanding not only of what these symptoms are or can be, but also engaging with the fact that there is a spectrum of the disability. Many people view autistic people as to having slight learning difficulties, with possible heightened abilities in other areas. Whilst this is true in some cases, it’s not always as simple as that, and Eat.Sleep.Bathe.Repeat allows us to view life in a care home for low functioning autistic residents, as well as the carers who devote their lives to looking after them.

I think what makes this piece so interesting is its simplicity and rawness. There are no moments of extremely heightened emotion: no “who dunnit?”‘s and no “Did he? Didn’t she?”, simply because the piece doesn’t need it. Josh Day has written the piece with such modesty and honesty.

Day cleverly uses the new and naďve care worker who has no previous experience working with low functioning autistic people as a tool to help the audience learn with him. There are moments of perfect light and shade throughout the piece which compliment each other brilliantly. Through these peaks and troughs we discover the truth behind how the carers feel and handle things, as well as their connections with trying to understand the residents. An interesting example includes Aaron (played by Andy Morgan), a sarcastic, lazy and narcissistic carer who is easy to dislike, however his real, if immature, humour colours the piece fantastically, and also shows that carers are after all, only human too.

It is clear that a lot of research has gone into creating these characters. All of the actors playing autistic characters have every movement and sound absolutely spot on, with no shying away from the truth. Eat.Sleep.Bathe.Repeat is a brilliant depiction of people with autism and the internal struggle of communication and clear cognitive thinking. This makes the piece even more heart warming when we see that James (Luke Merchant) manages to build individual relationships withthe residents depending on their different needs.

Eat.Sleep.Bathe.Repeat. opens the mind to an entirely different perspective of the truth of autism, and reminds us that these people are in fact just people with alternative understandings of the world. The piece is written and delivered with such a great understanding and level of respect, and it’s a fantastic example of new writing. A great watch for anyone who is looking to learn a bit and walk away with a new understanding and predominantly, a smile.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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