The idea of making a piece about Echolalia, an imitative behaviour disorder related to autism and a relatively unknown condition, is a very interesting one.Echo, a young woman ‘on the spectrum’, the show’s blurb tells us, is attempting to get a job whilst dealing with compulsive behaviours and extreme anxiety.
We are also told that this is an uplifting clown piece; because I rarely get to meet the real clown during the 60 mins, I can’t say whether the show is uplifting or deeply heart-breaking or both, and I’m not sure the show itself knows what it is either.
Furthermore, whilst there is an attempt at some sort of slapstick with objects, it’s poorly executed. For an audience to enjoy a clown’s physical disco-ordination, the performer needs to be in complete control of their body. In Echolalia the movement is clumsy and without control, and so it’s a challenge to relax whilst watching it.
Considering this, it’s odd that the company have chosen to punctuate the story with interpretative dance interludes. It could be argued that this is part of the techniques that the character employs to calm their anxiety. However, the choreography is in such opposition to the more recognisable regulated counting, repetition of phrases and arm brushing that it just seems odd and long, without a purpose.
McArthur is a very likeable performer, with an expressive face. What she does do well is improvised dialogue with her audience. This seemed to be where the real animation and audience-performer contact occurs. In this space her clown does and could more consistently come to life, and had she won us over from the start, she could push the socially inappropriate remarks, she enjoys playing with, further. As it is, she ends up insulting the one audience member, who has, up until that point, laughed throughout.
This piece has potential but needs to go much deeper into the subject of the condition to create any real emotional pull. The clowning would also work much more effectively, if McArthur could more openly share her vulnerability as a performer. Otherwise, we’re just going through the motions.