Witnessing a pair of hands wringing around a mother’s throat is alarming, and what is even more disturbing is when the assailant is her very own son. However, that may all be just another typical scene in a day of in the life of Tami, the mother and main caregiver of Josh, her 18-year-old son with severe autism.
FALLING, a play by Deanna Jent, pulls at your heartstrings which highlights the issue of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through the perspectives of parents Tami (Tan Kheng Hua) and Bill (Adrian Pang), with their teenage daughter , Lisa (Fiona Lim) adjusting to live with their autistic son and brother Josh (Andrew Mako).
One can almost feel the anguish that Tami feels as she exhausts every ounce of energy she has to the whims and tantrums of her autistic son like every mother would. On top of that, she doesn’t see eye to eye with Bill which causes a riff in their marriage, and it also adds on to her burden when Lisa freely expresses her resentment towards her brother, and her mother, for robbing her chance to lead a normal teenage life. The story takes a spin when Bill’s religious mother, Sue (Neo Swee Lin), visits the family for a week and plays the clueless role of an outsider to the family’s plight, asking ignorant question and quoting Bible verses for divine intervention much to the frustration of the family.
And there’s still Josh, the severely autistic son who is also a fully-grown adult that has to be cared for. There are routines to be followed, spontaneous tantrums to be dealt with, precautions to be taken, and even the occurrence of violence which can be proven deadly if not thwarted at that split moment. Tan Kheng Hua performed brilliantly in embodying Tami, a self-sacrificial mother who hangs on dearly on piece of a string as she juggles the challenges she faces with Josh and the rest of the family.
The play truly sheds light on ASD, and also the unsung heroes, the caregivers to those with this disability. The audience are not only educated, but are also encouraged to spread the awareness of ASD. Wonderfully executed by its cast members, FALLING sends shivers down your spine with its compelling delivery of the challenges and decisions the family makes, evoking emotions that some might not have felt inside.
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