CW: Ableism and discriminatory language
Written and Performed by Krystina Nellis
Produced by Studio Odder and Chronic Insanity
Runs to 15th March at Vault Festival, London
Glitch is an open depiction of an individual’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment. It just so happens that this particular protagonist has autism. Kelly, a self-proclaimed ‘weird’ person, is trying to discover who she is beyond the labels. Stuck in a small hometown, where having autism leaves you open to being called, “retard” and “psycho”, insular Kelly is trying to find the courage to make a change; despite the fact that clinging to the familiar is, in her words, “a design feature of” her “people”. Video games bring consistency, dependability and colour to Kelly’s world. A metaphor brought to life beautifully through the contrast of the stark, minimal set of a black chair and black television, invigorated by Kelly’s words on screen. Characters and script are reimagined into a colour, retro-game style display throughout the performance. This inclusive yet colourful addition helps to give the show a much-needed source of uniqueness. I would have liked to have seen this concept taken further. There are some truly heartfelt moments in Glitch including when Kelly loses herself to dancing in a nightclub. One can’t help being moved at Kelly enjoying and unashamedly being herself. This is extended further to when we hear snippets of her budding relationship with Maisie – the gamer with the pink hair. It is a sweet portrayal of the beginnings of love, offering a relatable snapshot into the inner workings of Kelly’s mind. “Can I kiss you?” Maisie asks, to which Kelly responds… “I have questions.” Krystina Nellis brings an animated and somewhat frank warmth to Kelly. Her awkward comedy really added to her rendition and allowed us to follow the character journey in a truly honest way. At times, the show felt unpolished. Nellis deviates from the script; often stumbling and repeating her words. When opening the show, the delivery of the script felt rushed and one could feel the performer’s anxiety. This improved, but the performance could have benefitted from taking more space, tightening the pace and homing in the comedic timing.
Overall though, it was nice to experience an honest, autistic coming of age story. I would be excited to see more from this perspective (especially female) and feel that it is truly needed. Kelly is a genuinely intriguing character and I hope to hear more of her courage to be herself. No easy feat, but something we all have to learn, one speed running tournament at a time.
© K. Blewett 2020