Forest Forge Theatre Company presents The Boy at the Edge of the Room at Frome’s Merlin Theatre
Forest Forge Theatre Company presents The Boy at the Edge of the Room, a fairytale for adults, inspired by Lucy Clifford's 1882 story Wooden Tony, at Frome's Merlin Theatre on Wednesday, March 13.
The Boy At The Edge of the Room is based on the Victorian novella Wooden Tony, is considered to be the first literary exploration of autism.
The writer Richard Conlon explains when he first came across the subject matter: "I can very accurately pin down the desire to develop this play – In May 2002 I read a Guardian article by Charlotte Moore which opened my eyes to the Wooden Tony story and its wider implications.
"The gothic tale which inverts and predates the Pinocchio story has been under my skin ever since.
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"It has a haunting beauty and a final image which will stay with readers and audiences for a long time."
The Boy at the Edge of the Room is an exciting and relevant piece of theatre that Forest Forge has been developing for two years.
The first manifestation of the project happened in 2010 when writer Richard and Forest Forge's creative learning team ran eleven workshops with people with autism and their families.
Thirty five children on the autistic spectrum took part in this process alongside 179 adults.
Last April Forest Forge ran a week-long drama holiday club for children on the autistic spectrum.
The project was entitled Me and How Other People See Me and was an examination of identity.
All of this work has been used by the company and Richard to inform the creation of the play.
The story follows Tony, a young boy who displays many of the classic traits of those on the autistic spectrum.
Although the term 'autism' wasn't defined when Lucy Clifford wrote the original book, her description of Tony and his inner world fits closely with what we have come to label "autistic behaviour".
Tony lives with his mother and father. They struggle for money and Tony's father carves wooden toys to sell to tourists in the summer when they come to visit the mountains.
Tony is victimised by those around him, including his father.
From a very early age he is seen as different to other children. To his hard working father, Tony is lazy, stupid – 'wooden headed' like the figures the father carves to sell to tourists.
Tony's mother maintains that the boy is special and has his own place in the world; sighting his beautiful and unique song as proof of this.
Within the introverted village where Tony and his family live, high up in the mountains, the villagers all have their opinion of Tony. These opinions are shared with the audience and his mother, who is quick to challenge and defend.
Tony has a beautifully honesty that is very different to the secret whispers of the villagers. He struggles to live in the world that he feels separated from and he wishes to be "nothing more than very small and very far off".
As he gets older he becomes more withdrawn and troubled by the world around him.
Tony hides at the "edge of the room", listening and watching and always thinking. At moments Tony shares his thoughts directly with the audience. In a world of living hand to mouth, people do not have time for Tony's dreams.
One day a mysterious 'dealer' from the city, having heard about the boy's song, offers the chance to take Tony away and make his dreams come true.
It is a beautiful and moving examination of difference and acceptance, brought to life through song, movement and puppetry.
Tickets cost £10.