Athena Stevens is a talented woman who created and stars in a 90 minute play that travels across decades exploring the changing attitudes of society. Schism begins when 14 year old Katherine (Stevens) breaks into her teacher’s home just as he is about to commit suicide. She is desperate to learn more and develop to her full potential and this youthful persistence is what prevents Harrison (Tim Beckman) from taking his own life. Katherine dreams of being an architect whilst Harrison lives life regretting that he gave up on that same dream. As the years go by, the two fall in love facing several difficulties including the idea of a ‘student – teacher’ relationship. But the problems are rooted deeper. When Katherine becomes a successful architect, despite all the odds, Harrison cannot handle her success.
Jealousy is one human emotion that is integral to the play and its outcome. The feeling of embarrassment is another obstacle that prevents Harrison from being able to love Katherine with a confident and care free manner. Amongst all these complexities, Katherine has cerebral palsy; a disability that Harrison is never fully able to overlook. Public comments that imply Harrison’s intentions are perverted become a hindrance to his ability to see Katherine simply as the woman of his affections. This play is incredibly clever and highlights that cerebral palsy does not have to be the weakness that society says it is. Katherine is an incredibly strong and intelligent individual who knows what she wants and how to get it. Her disability does not make her stupid or unaware of her surroundings. Her judgement is as sharp as anyone else’s. It is not cerebral palsy that is a barrier to her future but society’s attitude towards it. Her school decide that she is incapable of taking classes with non-disabled students; universities assume she wouldn’t be able to handle a degree. Katherine’s confidence and diligence breaks down these assumptions and proves her abilities to be as good as and better than anyone else with or without a disability.
Schism is a valuable play that needs to be seen by all. At the end of the play, Harrison is incredibly unhappy despite his ‘normal’ human brain and body. But Katherine is an absolute success. This is not a fairytale type story that shows what life could be like in another Universe. It proves what life can and should be like if non-disabled humans were less narrow-minded. There will be many audience members who would have made assumptions about people with disabilities only to find that Stevens has picked these out and thrown them in the trash. When watching this play, one comes to realise just how restrictive society can be to people with disabilities. People with little or no understanding of someone think that they are entitled to define their abilities through comments and opinions that are based upon trivialities. Despite this, Schism is not a play purely about disability. It is about having the overall ability to do what you want whether you have a disability or not. Harrison did not achieve his dreams because his own mentality got in the way. Katherine achieved hers because she never let anyone else define her.
If you would like to see a play that opens your eyes to the reality of the world, you have until the 14th May 2016 to get a ticket: http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2016/schism.php