WHEN SOMEONE LOOKS okay, you can’t always tell that they’re not. This is the central premise to Australian playwright David Williamson’s recent play Odd Man Out, currently on the boards in Johannesburg. It’s a work which is not only brilliantly conceived of and written, but it is one in which all the collaborative energies of this season sing together with a deep sense of empathetic poetry. The work skewers the concept of normalcy and holds it up to the scrutiny of people who take it for granted. It’s a complicated series of values which make us who we are in society. Or who we think we are. Step out of that magic circle and everything could fall apart. That is, unless you are loved, enough.
The delightful and smart performer Ashleigh Harvey reprises the role of Alice in this tightly woven emotional rollercoaster of a play told with frank clarity. Never stooping to maudlin emotions or a slew of self-pity, it will make you laugh out loud as it will make you do the ugly cry in your acknowledgement of the kind of baggage many human beings carry. And how heavy it can become.
In short, Odd Man Out, featuring a cringingly riveting performance by Daniel Janks in the role of Ryan Goodman, the young man afflicted, is an essay on autism. Its narrative premises extend to embrace so many conditions that force a person beyond the pale of social behaviour, and while it offers strong clinical insights into Asperger’s Syndrome, it casts a wide net at behaviours and illnesses which are not visible to the unpractised eye.
Supported by Michèle Levin and Russel Savadier as the broader striations of society and a simple set, the work, of the ilk of tales such as Kafka’s Ape, which sees one kind of creature being forced into behaviour foreign to him, Odd Man Out is grown up and direct. It’s simultaneously easy and difficult to watch, and it is the kind of work which will remind you why theatre exists in the world. Almost an advocacy drama, this is a grown up essay on what it takes to fit in. And what can happen if you don’t.
- Odd Man Out is written by David Williamson and directed by Megan Willson. It features lighting design by Denis Hutchinson and is performed by Ashleigh Harvey, Daniel Janks, Michèle Levin and Russel Savadier at Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton, until October 21. Call 011 883 8606