‘I am not ill.’
Teenager Stephen Luckwell stands in front of his tutor, Claire, preparing a speech to set his new classmates straight about the facts of autism. And they are not the only ones who receive a firm lecture on the truth about the condition, in Nick Wood’s moving drama. For the majority of us, autism is probably not something we come into contact with on a regular basis. My Name is Stephen Luckwell brings the audience face to face with the character of Stephen, taking us on an educational yet emotional journey through his daily routines, troubles and challenges.
Aside from his determination to assert that he does not have a disease, Stephen explains how he has difficulty in understanding figurative language, and finds it hard to deal with lots of different sources of noise. His naïve determination and desire to be told the truth inspired me to sympathy and even to tears, and his tutor’s patience and understanding were admirable.
The play has been on tour in various schools, and when I saw it at the Nottingham Playhouse, it seemed to have an almost ‘school production’ feel to it. There was little attempt to disguise the production’s technical aspects, nor to create a naturalistic set. The audience was seated on rows of chairs arranged on a flat level surrounding the simple stage, which contained only a couple of desks and chairs, and a screen at the back.
Not that this took away from the value of the performance, or my enjoyment of it. Being set for the most part in a school, this ‘school feel’ was highly appropriate. The emotion of the play was brilliantly communicated without the use of fancy scenery and special effects, and I felt that the result would have been the same had it been performed in a bare room. The play and its characters were brought much closer to home through the intimacy of the setting, which enabled the audience to identify with the characters, yet ensured that the challenges put forward by the play could not be ignored.