An award-winning play which took the nation by storm when first heard on BBC Radio 4, now in a new stage version
Lee Hall's extraordinary, award-winning play about faith, love and the meaning of life was first broadcast on Radio Four in 1997 to unprecedented acclaim. A monologue by an exceptional autistic seven-year-old girl called Spoonface Steinberg, who is dying of cancer, touched the hearts of all who heard it. It is a moving, funny and exhilarating piece of drama. The radio version was immediately repeated due to popular demand and a cassette of the play was rushed into shops and has sold over 80,000 copies. This play edition was performed in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre in December 1999 and then in London's West End in January 2000 at the Ambassador's Theatre. The production starred Kathryn Hunter. "And what was the meaning of all these things? And the meaning was as if you found the spark - and it was finding the sparks inside you and setting them free" (Spoonface Steinberg)
Lee Hall (born 20 September 1966) is an English playwright and screenwriter. He is best known for the 2000 film Billy Elliot.
Hall was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, in 1966, the son of a house painter and decorator and a housewife. He was educated at Benfield School in Walkergate. As a youth he went to Wallsend Young People's Theatre along with Deka Walmsley and Trevor Fox who later appeared in both Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters. He went to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he studied English literature and was taught by the poet Paul Muldoon. After leaving Cambridge, he worked as a youth theatre fundraiser in Newcastle and at the Gate Theatre in London. In 1997, his playwriting career was launched with the broadcast of his radio play, Spoonface Steinberg, on BBC Radio 4.
An early dramatic success from the creator of Billy Elliott , this drama about an autistic child struggling with cancer remains powerful and stays, just, on the right side of schmaltz. Raw and gripping, especially when accompanied by the BBC dramatisation.
To begin, I was fully prepared not to like this piece. I'm not usually fond of this sort of writing style, written with purposefully poor diction so as to be from the POV of an uneducated or mentally challenged person. However, Lee Hall has crafted this work extremely well and taken care to give the character a distinct voice which conveys her autism and young age, but in such a way that it doesn't become distracting. In this delicate balance, we fully understand the character and it actually accentuates how profound her observations and musings on life and death are.
Two of my favorite passages:
"you can't feel the end our touch the end-- 'cos there was really no ends to find-- that was the meaning there are no real ends-- only middles, and even if I was at the end I was still in the middle... so everything is the middle-- even if it was at the middle of an end-- it didn't matter because I'm in it." (pg 155)
"When you think about dying it is very hard to do-- it is to think about what is not-- to think about everything there is nothing -- to not be and never to be again -- it is even more than emptiness -- if you think of emptiness it is full of nothing and death is more than this-- death is even less than nothing... and that is the weird point-- not that there is even anything but there is not even nothing-- and that is death." (pg 157-8)
I couldn't help but smile at the mix of hope and hopelessness, tragedy and brilliance, in this text. The unstructured, interwoven sentences of natural speech and the childish way of seeing things are very potent. This language disrupts the usual text-audience relationship, inviting the audience to explore the inner world of another person whose perspective is usually so closed off from the world. There is a wondrous fascination in this process of breaking typical communication barriers. At the same time the text intimates that all of us, no matter how outwardly autistic, have these deep inner reflections about life. There are some interesting parrallels with Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated, in terms of how everyone has sparks in them that light up when interacting with other people. makes me want to learn more about Judaism.
I brought this book after listening to the book on Radio 4. My partner and I were late for a rehearsal of a theatre show, as we needed to know what happened. We cried so much, such a beautifully written book.
Absolutely astonishing! This is such an uplifting monologue and is deeply embedded into my principles when it comes to choosing books to read; it encapsulates everything which is beautiful in life. Just read it. I don,t want to ruin it.