New Views competition winner Perspective at National Theatre online
Now in 2021, almost anyone can find representation within some media facet, whether it is in the form of theatre, music or other. National Theatre’s New Views competition continues this trend by announcing their winner to be 17-year-old Mackenzie Wellfare from HSDC Alton in Hampshire, with a project centred on autism. The festival gives young playwrights aged 14-19 years old a platform to share their creations, as well as having their piece performed in a full production. The contest is nothing less than competitive, having 400 entries from 74 schools and colleges this year.
Perspective certainly is a “new view”, wherein the young writer achieves his goal in portraying autism in a way that has not been done in traditional media before. Centred in Leo’s (JJ Green) minimalistic bedroom, the narrative deals with both his internal and external conflicts. Shaun (Kwaku Mills) attempts to console Leo, but his lack of understanding holds him back. This is the premise of the story, as it aims to help neurotypical people understand the mind of a person with autism. The monologues may occasionally be perceived as unnatural, but the raw emotion behind their delivery is gripping. These sections of the play do not just work as dramatised scenes, instead they also portray a reality that people with autism cannot escape – even after leaving the theatre or closing their web browser. Although contemporary society is gradually becoming more accepting, the protagonist’s speeches are still offset by repeated apologies, representing that people are still made to feel as though they must feel sorry for certain things about themselves that they cannot change. The young cast bring so much experience. They bounce off each other like sportsmen during an expert game of tennis, this is aided by the fact that both Wellfare and Green are autistic themselves.
The performance tackles the character’s struggle with experiencing senses in a completely different way to most other people. This notion is depicted through the dimming of lights and the jarring, loud sounds. The light switch motif re-occurs with a clicking sound, which signifies the transitions between the bedroom and the void of Leo’s head. The isolating spotlight is a metaphor that shines down on him, suggesting that he feels like everyone’s focus is on him. But, just like everyone else, all the young boy wants is a friend, one person to understand. He finds this in Emma (Evlyne Oyedokun), a fellow person with autism. She helps him realise he does not have to apologise or feel shame for who he is. Acceptance is a major theme in the piece and one that is echoed throughout the entirety of the digital festival.
Next, D/deaf students from Eastbury Community School’s Alternative Resource Provision will also host a production. The pupils will take part in a playwrighting workshop facilitated by Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company, Jenny Sealey – who is also a judge on the New Views panel, alongside NT’s Head of Play Development Nina Steiger, playwright and screenwriter Beth Steel, and playwright-performer Mojisola Adebayo.
Steiger sums up the festival by saying, “the final plays were about identity, imagination, love and the bravery of expressing these elements of what makes us human, and perhaps what we’ve missed most in being together. That these plays were written at home in lockdown, developed with teachers and mentors over the difficult platform of group Zoom sessions, and that the voices in these plays nevertheless resonate with truthfulness, joy and life force is a testament to the importance of this programme and the self-expression it enables.” All topical issues were covered, particularly in the winning play.
Photo: Cameron Slater
New Views competition winner Perspective is online at the National Theatre from 9th July until 6th July 2021. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.