Theatre Works and Arena Theatre
2 April 2019
to 13 April
Robot Song is all kinds of wonderful and then some. It finishes on Saturday.
Juniper's 11 and doesn't like going to school. She'd rather be at home with her parents or her best friend, who's a skip bin who makes toys and more friends out of rubbish. Juniper (Ashlea Pyke) also likes singing (Nate Gilkes wrote the music) and, with the help of her mum (Jo Abbott) and especially her dad (Phil McInnes), she wants to tell the story about why she stopped going to school and how a robot helped her to see her world differently.
Juniper knows she a bit different from her classmates. She doesn't like this, but she's ok with it because she has an art teacher who knows how creative Juniper is and she has a family who love and understand her. Although it's not discussed in her play, Juniper's story was inspired by the director/writer/designer Joylon James's son, who has autism.
One day Juniper's class give her a letter saying that they don't want her at their school. They call her a robot and the letter is so horrible that, even as an adult, it's hard to accept it as children not understanding the effect of their words.
Juniper can't dismiss it either and refuses to go back to school. Until a robot from a 1980s video she watched with her dad appears in her back yard.
As Juniper is played by an adult, we are always seeing the story from an adult point of view where her trauma is understood and her unconditional love and safety is assured. This allows children to be engrossed in her story, feel her pain and still feel safe.
Robot Song is far more than an insight into to being a child on the autism spectrum. It's a story about empathy, understanding and creativity and how difference is a way to connect far more than a reason to reject.