Do you know what’s autism? I mean most people have heard of it, but will never actually come face to face with it ever. I went to the theatres with the hubs on Sunday to watch Pangdemonium‘s latest production, Falling.
Falling is about ordinary parents, Bill and Tami, struggling to do their very best to bring up their 2 teenage kids, Lisa 16 and Josh 18 who suffers from severe autism. Family life revolves around Josh and his routines, his obsessions and rigid set of rules that have been created to help them get through each day. Life almost falls apart when grandma visits from Australia…
The lights dim and we are introduced to Joshi (Andrew Marko), who goes through his daily set routine of fun ~ rolling himself around the house in circles, tapping on the calendar and ending with a “choo-choo” before he tugs on a string to let down feathers from a box. Joshi is happy doing his thing.
At first, everyone in the theatre laughs at the seemingly simple repetitive routines that keep Joshi happy. Yes, we’ve all heard about autism and what it is like and yes, this was exactly what to expect right?… Do you think that’s all to it?
It turns out that the reality of the show as it progresses hits everyone in the heart, right on the spot. Falling is the most beautifully moving show that I have been to in a really long time. It reminded me about what being a mother means ~ The unconditional love for our kids no matter what. I could not stop my tears from flowing as did the many ladies in front of and around me too. Everyone was sobbing and reaching for tissues to wipe away those tears.
I empathised most with the character Tan Kheng Hua played. A mum, just an ordinary mum, trying her best to love her son who cannot control his fears, his thoughts, his irrational behaviours, who needs everyone around to help him ‘not be stuck’ and to soothe him. All he needs is love, love enough to bear with his condition and be there for him all the time.
One cannot help but admire how cleverly Tami (Tan Kheng Hua) soothes each tumultuous and sometimes life-threatening situation. Her patience with Joshi, her unconditional love for him, to make things right and better for her son, who needs all the help he can get even at the risk of herself ‘falling’ from sanity and her marriage ‘falling’ apart… she remains stoically loving Joshi. I think many in the audience must have wondered if they could do the same, if they were in her shoes. I did.
My favourite line from Tan Kheng Hua must have been when she was desperately trying to reach out to her teenage daughter to tell her how much she loved both of her children. “You can hate him, it’s okay you get to hate him! But mums don’t get that choice! We can’t help it, we love our kids no matter what!” That was perhaps the most piercing line and so true for every mother. Mums, we really don’t get to choose whether to love our children or not, they are ours, and we simply have to love them. It’s called unconditional love.
I think many were moved to tears because of the strength of Tami’s unconditional love for Joshi. Despite the struggles and difficulties, the anguish and sometimes physical hurt that Joshi can cause to her due to his severe autism, she continues to love and protect him. I couldn’t stop crying because of Tami’s strength and patience with an obviously impossible situation she’s stuck in.
My husband held my hands tightly as I sobbed and in our silent glance, we knew too we were so blessed with Wey. We knew we had to be more loving and patient with him. If Tami could do it with her Joshi, we should too with our active little boy who is most of the time delightful but sometimes annoyingly difficult ~ aka just being a normal child.
Watching Falling also made me realise that we often view others with our own set ways of what’s the right way of doing things. Sometimes, there is no right way, just the loving way. If it fits the family and it works, then go with it. Life should not be what you expect someone else to do or be, but what fits that person you love best. Whether a family eats together may work for one family but not for many others and it doesn’t mean there is no love in that family.
Of course there are lighter moments when the theatre roared with laughter, for example when Tami turns a tensed moment into a fun moment for Joshi and even grandma has to dance and jive shaking her pills for Joshi. Or when teenage Joshi decides to ‘touch’ himself in front of his God-fearing grandma. Embarrassing teenage moments indeed but reinforcing how autistic people have the same needs just like any other boy his age ~ nothing ‘unnatural or wrong’ at all!
Kudos to the stellar cast Adrian Pang, Tan Kheng Hua, Andrew Marko and Neo Swee Lin, for a powerful emotive performance. Andrew Marko was convincing and unrestrained as he brought us all straight into a world we never knew, a marginalised misunderstood and often ignored part of our society. Neo Swee Lin is every bit the optimistic, no-harm intended, ignorant yet loving grandma (mother-in-law) that everyone loves.
Falling is as enlightening as it is heartbreakingly beautiful. I walked away realising my mothering struggles were minute in comparison with what some others faced and went home from the Sunday matinee loving my son more. I realised how blessed I am with Wey, even though he can be difficult at times. Nothing compares with what Tami and families with autistic children face daily. I’m finding the strength to be more patient with Wey when he steps out of line (I hope it lasts haha..)
This is really life changing theatre. It is emotional, it is unforgettable and it is exceptional. Pangdemonium’s Falling runs at the KC Arts Centre till 5 June 2016. Don’t be afraid to go watch it, book your tickets at SISTIC and you will know why Falling is a show for everyone. I am thankful that Pangdemonium has brought this unseen world to stage in Singapore and I do so hope many people will get a chance to catch this extraordinary show about unconditional love that overcomes struggles and makes our little troubles seem so minute.
Who: No admission for infants in arms and children below 12 years old.
Duration: Approximately 1.5 hours (no interval)
Ticket Price : Exclude SISTIC Charges
Preview 13th May
Standard: S$40, S$30
Fri & Sat Evening
Standard: S$55, S$45
Tue – Thu, Sat & Sun Matinees
Standard: S$50, S$40
For more information, visit http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/falling0616
Tickets available through: SISTIC Website | SISTIC Hotline (65) 6348 5555 | SISTIC Authorised Agents islandwide