A ‘square’ may be short-hand for conventional and boring, but the right-angled life is actually pretty fun. The trio of friends in this early years’ production enjoy their quadratic existence, filling their days with seesaws, school and dance parties. But when an accident leaves one of them a little out of shape, it becomes harder to hang out – in a world made for the rectilinear, how can a round peg fit into a square hole?
A Square World is a one-man show, created and performed by Daryl Beeton. This production for young audiences about difference and the importance of inclusion draws together his interests, artistic values and professional experience, which have centred around theatre, disability and youth arts participation for the last twenty years.
The production is perfectly-pitched for its age range of 3-6, with the introduction of the three square companions making for a very funny first few moments that immediately bring the young audience onside. It’s an impressive feat – the characters and their personalities are conjured from expertly-manipulated pieces of a sponge-like material; the non-verbal piece is accompanied just by mutterings and vocally-created sound effects.
The square world is created from building blocks, moved and remade into the vehicles, buildings and parks that the little squares inhabit each day. The three friends are the only splash of colour in a spare and stylish set: design is important in a production about what happens when the world isn’t made for everyone. Visual metaphors abound – initially, the characters’ edges perfectly slot into bus seats, easily clear stairs, and sweep through school doors, but when one of them finds their sides decidedly rounder, everything is suddenly inaccessible. Unable to join in any of the routine activities anymore, the former-square is completely left out.
A Square World offers a sophisticated and clear-eyed view of the barriers to inclusion that the former-square faces. What if friends won’t do much to help, the effort too off-putting? And when this isn’t the case, what can they practically do? With every public bus and park bench built to accommodate a different shape, how can they be adapted to suit alternative needs? And who is able to make the necessary modifications? In A Square World, the former-square’s friends petition the performer – who looms over the desk-based drama, moving the squares and their surroundings – as the only one with the necessary power to help: it is, therefore, his responsibility to remake the world so that it is inclusive of everyone in it.
The show is funny, quirky, assured and important. It’s almost impossible to watch anything at the moment without finding ways to relate it back to Brexit and Trump, but A Square World really is necessary theatre right now – though perhaps the audience it needs is one of adults rather than children?
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