Dance review: Echolalia

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Echolalia at C Aquila (Venue 21), reviewed by Kelly Apter

Even without knowing that performer Jen McArthur created her show after working with children with autism, there’s a real sense of honesty about it. McArthur plays Echo, a woman with Asperger’s syndrome, struggling to master the niceties of everyday life.

Introducing herself to members of the audience, she lacks the empathy or awareness to know you don’t ask strangers how much money they earn, why they got married or how old they are. Watching Echo negotiate the landscape of her life, from making a hot drink to preparing for a job interview, it’s fascinating to learn how important precision, repetition and lack of mess are to her.

McArthur peppers her dialogue with moments of physicality, bursting into clownish buffoonery or brief displays of contemporary dance, executed with infectious exuberance. All of which adds to her charm, and it’s impossible not to enjoy spending time with this woman.

After sharing the almost claustrophobic confines of her world, both metaphorical and physical, the closing moments suggest a kind of liberation for Echo. How she got there isn’t clear, and our understanding of Echo’s inner world feels superficial rather than emotional – but as introductions go, it’s a good one.

Until 26 August.

Originally published in The Scotsman

More info: Echolalia is at C Aquila

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