Modelling Spitfires

by Vanessa Rosenthal

photo of Anita taunting Maurice

‘Modelling Spitfires’ deals with psychological menace in a series of deepening revelations that give it the overall feel of a thriller. Each of its three characters is drawn with sympathy so that at various points the audience finds itself attracted to a particular view point only to have this reaction confounded by the next revelation. It is an examination of the long-term effects of mental illness (schizophrenia) on the other members of a family. ‘We don’t do normal in this house’, one of the characters says.

Maurice, sixty, is the sufferer; Anita, fifty-six, is his sister. Who is the manipulator and who is the manipulated? The line between ‘what is normal and what is abnormal’ is not black and white but infinitely shaded in grey. Anita and Maurice in another time and in another situation are interchangeable. In a way they are two halves of one whole that make up the illness: the carer and the cared for. As Maurice says, ‘It’s not always the one who’s sick who suffers the most dis-ease.’

photo of Janet and Anita

Maurice the intellectually gifted son of a nuclear physicist might have been anything before illness struck in early adolescence. At times flashes of this brilliance surface and sit oddly alongside his obsession with model aircraft and flying in which he takes refuge, sometimes very bizarrely, when the going gets tough.

‘Modelling Spitfires’ in fact is far from all dark and along the way there is much humour and moments of laughter.

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