July 15, 2018
Ella Carmen Greenhill’s Plastic Figurines, first published in 2015, tells the story of two young adult siblings, 18 year-old Michael, and 25-year-old Rose. The story is split off in two different parts both surrounding the illness of their mother and her eventual death from cancer. Rose who has been living away from home for the past couple of years is forced to come home when her mother falls ill to take care of Michael, who is on the Autistic spectrum. This is not easy for Rose who loves her brother but is overwhelmed with the responsibility of having to take over his care while she is still so young herself. It may be harder for her now to have her own life and there’s a part of her that understandably resents this.
As I was reading this play, I was both entertained and saddened by the events. The conversations that the two siblings have can be quite entertaining but there is a underlying sadness to them all. The big blow up that the two siblings have towards the end of the play was a very powerful and saddening moment. It really shows Rose’s frustration in dealing with her difficult brother and his frustration at not quite being able to understand why she is so cross. At one point, Rose even yells at Michael, “I have to pick up the pieces just because they make you act like a fucking retard” (Page 59). Pretty harsh! I guess Rose’s frustrations just blew up at the point. It happens to the best of us after all. Michel doesn’t know how to answer anymore, he just walks away with his hands on his ears and that’s how the scene ends. Wow!
In terms of the meaning of the title, Michael likes playing with plastic figurines in the way that kids on the spectrum typically do. It keeps him calm and gets him into his own world which is common for people on the spectrum when they hone in on something. Therefore, I think the title could have a figurative meaning as well. It is hard for people like Michael on the Autism spectrum to show emotion so maybe he seems almost plastic when talking about his mother since he can’t really seem to express deep sadness over her death. Instead, he goes into his own little bubble and plays with his figurines, further representing a similarity to one of these toys. Rose is more capable of expressing emotion but she has to hold herself back in front of her little brother, which must be difficult. This means that she might kind of be like and feel like a plastic figurine as well.
(The Previous Year)
Michael and Rose sit on plastic cafeteria chairs eating a meal of cheeseburgers and fries.
Michael: (Glancing up from his plate at his sister.) I wonder how many times Mum will vomit today during her treatment. Last time she vomited twice.
Rose: Micheal! Please don’t talk about that while we’re eating. Besides, it not very nice to predict how many times Mum will get sick during treatment.
Michael: Well, it will probably happen at least once. That’s just reality.
Rose: Still Michael, it’s gross and inappropriate to talk about while we’re eating.
Michael: Why is it inappropriate to talk about while we eat?
Rose: It’s not nice to talk about gross things while someone is eating. It can make people lose their appetite.
Michael: I was just trying to make conversation. You always complain I don’t do that enough whenever we’re together.
Rose (sighing) I appreciate the effort Michel, but there are plenty of other things we can talk about.
Michael: Like what?
Rose: Tell me about the figurine Mum just got you.
Rose: I’m listening. Go ahead!
Greenhill, Carmen, Ella. Plastic Figurines. Bloomsbury Publishing PIC, 2015.