Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, Scotland

12/08/2014 - 22/08/2014

C venues - C aquila, Edinburgh, Scotland

16/08/2013 - 26/08/2013

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

26/02/2013 - 28/02/2013

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

25/02/2012 - 27/02/2012

NASDA Theatre, E Block, CPIT, Christchurch

04/10/2013 - 06/10/2013

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Auckland Fringe 2013

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

The Body Festival 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Production Details

Cheeky, “ridiculous” and “delightful”, Echolalia is a solo clown theatre performance, the like of which is very rarely seen in NZ.

Jen McArthur is a Wellingtonian trained at the NZ School of Dance, Circomedia circus school in Bristol and by Lecoq clown teacher Giovanni Fusetti. She joined the international Kallo Collective after meeting fellow New Zealander Thom Monckton at a clown workshop. The Collective has developed a unique sense of theatre style and physical comedy drawing from the masters, Chaplin and Keaton, and adding a contemporary twist.


Tickled by the social “weirdness” of autistic children while working with them on a holiday programme, Jen McArthur created a character for the stage who doesn’t register social niceties. “ I became interested in the strength of the human spirit to overcome obstacles, no matter how eccentric the obstacle, or how eccentric the methods used to overcome them.” Jen McArthur. Echolalia uses the forms of clown, physical theatre and dance to present Echo – a young woman preparing for a much needed job interview. This challenge is intensified by the front door, behind which the pressure of social situations awaits.

Touching, surprising, playful, McArthur spellbinds the audience, in this highly recognisable portrayal of a person doing battle with their fears. “McArthur’s tender performance as Echo is both delightful and heart breaking.” Salient.

Premiered in July last year at BATS, McArthur has since reworked the script with the assistance of Jo Randerson. “(Her) work is an important vein of comic, poetic clown that needs to get stronger in NZ for our theatre industry to grow.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience a tested work steeped in a New Zealand sense of humour, from an internationally experienced performer/ creator. “I shall not reveal the conclusion, but by all means my applause was rapturous.” Salient

Auckland Fringe 2013 runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to

26th – 28th February, 5.30pm Duration: 40 minutes
Venue: The Basement Theatre, Lower Grays Ave Auckland CBD
$15 Adult/ $12 child over 6 or Groups of 6+/ $10 Fringe Artists
Bookings iTICKET –  or 09 361 1000

Edinburgh Fringe 2013
C venues – C aquila
16-26 August 2013
Time:  15:40  |  Duration:  45 minutes

Edinburgh fringe 2014
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14)
Aug 12-25
1 hour 
Group: Jen McArthur and Kallo Collective

1 hr

Strong contribution to contemporary clowning and the conversation about autism

Review by Dione Joseph 22nd Aug 2014

Also known as echologia or echophrasia, echolalia is the automatic repetition of vocalizations made by another person.

That makes sense in context of Jen McArthur’s solo clown piece of the same name that addresses, with much humour and a lightness of touch, high functioning autism as experienced by a young woman preparing for a job interview.

Repetition is the key. But sometimes repetition can get monotonous. And sometimes it is necessary. Like saying hello to your pals every morning. Calling the recruitment agency for a possible job and then pretending the line is bad, only so you can call again. Making coffee. Dusting. It is these mundane activities that keep the world together in dedicated, recognisable beats.

Of course counting and lists always help. McArthur knows this. Having worked with children who experience autism her work is inspired by the unique responses to everyday situations, the challenges of what is perceived as ordinary and the daunting social conventions that one is expected to conform to in order to be considered as normal.

Shoes go missing, cookies are crumbled, audience members are ticked with a feather duster and probing personal questions are raised without any regard for politeness or social niceties. And amidst it all there are a couple of exquisite moments that are genuinely heart-breaking.

McArthur’s physicality is strong and her stage presence cannot be faulted – the script itself still feels like it needs slight tweaking. The premise, while appearing to be simple, is enormous: the challenges of stepping outside into a world of constant and often biased judgement. Yet at times it feels that rather than peeling away the layers, the work gets caught up in the various conversations with ourselves and their self-generating facades. It is these that seem to construct the play rather than the actual unstable nexus of the person’s thinking and behaviour. 

Occasionally Echolalia lags and the energy drops (a natural phenomenon for those who have experienced of familiar with autism) yet that particular aspect is not cradled enough to make a distinct impression. 

Nevertheless this is a very strong work and an important contribution to contemporary clowning and physical theatre – and also the conversation about autism. 



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Fresh and Funny Surprise Package

Review by Toby Behan 05th Oct 2013

Echolalia is a unique work of dance theatre, conceived, written and performed by Jen McArthur. The work deals with Asperger’s Syndrome – although it needs to be said at the outset that the intention is clearly not to represent a comprehensive dissection or portrayal of the subject. In fact (rather the opposite), Echolalia is performed and received as quite the burst of fresh air – uplifting (although dark in places), very funny, and totally optimistic – which oddly enough lends an undercurrent of sweet sadness to the evening.

McArthur has trained in clowning as well as dance and physical theatre and she combines these talents with a real gift for dramatic construction to provide Echolalia (played to a capacity house for the opening night performance). Indeed, the success of the evening and the presentation of the material are dependent on McArthur’s performance ability, charisma, and ability to communicate her message through multiple channels.

Asperger’s Syndrome can involve characteristics such as social interactions that would seem ‘out of place’ in normal society, not being aware or concerned of some of the unwritten rules we have in our day to day situations. It can also manifest by way of restricted or repetitive interests, as well as certain speech patterns ( ‘Echolalia’, the word itself, relates to the automatic repetition of vocalizations made someone).

McArthur weaves these characteristics into a whimsical fantasy world seemingly set in a 1940s hybrid-environment. Onstage are a checklist of items which she must proceed through each day (before having ‘spin time’ as a reward), a table with arranged items for making coffee, a wireless set, and a phone. Each is used methodically and with routine, and most involve the number eight – in terms of vocalization, or counting in dance phrases. The safety and reliability built into these routines is both tangible and touching, in McArthur’s hands.

Social interactions are largely handled by communicating with the audience members directly (which in itself is one of the less frequently broken rules of social engagement). No question is too personal – and it speaks highly of McArthur that she can ask how old people are, how much money they earn, and whether they have always been fat – and yet retain the complete admiration of the entire audience.

This is a delightful and thought-provoking work – a real surprise package. It manages to include aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome in a clever, non-clumsy way which has the effect of making the audience think without feeling as though we are being asked to do this. We can also revel in the joyous performance aspects given so generously and laugh – at the performers, at ourselves, and even at each other. This reviewer would wholeheartedly commend this show to anyone who has the opportunity to view it.


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Tremendously endearing

Review by Robbie Nicol 18th Aug 2013

Hidden away in a room so warm that it necessitates an electric fan, Jen McArthur is still charming international audiences as Echo from her spot on “the spectrum”. Echolalia was not so hidden away in New Zealand, winning Best Solo Show at the Wellington Fringe in 2011, and Best of the Fringe in Dunedin the following year. Kallo Collective’s productionisn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped, but McArthur’s performance is tremendously endearing.

Echo is difficult not to like. Practising her job interview with the audience, she demonstrates how hard it is to not understand human behaviour. Audience members are asked their age, how much they earn, and I am asked whether I “do sex”.

Despite the invasive nature of the questions, we do not feel embarrassed for ourselves. We are too busy trying to encourage Echo as she struggles to say the right things. The audience bonds together throughout the show as we become increasingly responsible for Echo’s success.

The physical elements of Echolalia are consistently entertaining. After Echo recites the entire advertisement for Moccona (“Moccona heft meer mmm”), she performs a superbly obsessive routine, making coffee timed out to some jump blues. Contemporary dance also turns out to be the perfect way to express the soothing feeling that comes from dropping a handkerchief exactly eight times.

Echolalia often seems as though it is about to delve into the emotions that come with being separated from humanity. One piece of advice Echo reads herself (“Don’t laugh at things that you find funny”) is especially touching, as is the point at which she screams at her own front door.

The piece never does end up delving, however, and in the end we only get to know Echo superficially. We care for her, certainly, but the show would benefit from letting us get to know the character we care for a little more deeply.


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Engages deeply through humour, warmth, and insight

Review by Norelle Scott 27th Feb 2013

Echolalia is a beautifully crafted, carefully considered and exquisitely executed theatrical performance. Insightful and articulate, this production invites audience participation in a way that is not only engaging and charming but also thematically significant.

As our tickets are taken at the door we are gently told to sit in the middle seats of the first three rows.  This we discover places us in the best possible position to engage and enjoy this production, and engage and enjoy we do.

According to the Fringe Festival brochure Echolalia is the ‘Winner of Best Solo Show’ in the Wellington Fringe 2011 and co-winner of ‘Best of the Fringe’ in Dunedin, and it’s easy to see why.

Jen McArthur introduces us to the character Echo, described in the programme as ‘a young woman on the spectrum’. The program notes also tell us that Jen has worked with autistic children. Echo does remind me of aspects of behaviour of people I know with Asperger’s syndrome but she is, as they are, uniquely individual.  The character of Echo also functions both literally and symbolically. She is distinctly idiosyncratic and yet an everywoman struggling to communicate – a struggle that confronts us all.

Echo’s physical and emotional world is reinforced by the set, props, costuming and make-up – all of which contribute meaningfully to the character and the story.  She works her way through her list of things to do, crossing each one off when completed, and as she observes her daily rituals, her goals become apparent.

Echo needs to call Sarah. She needs to practice for a job interview. She needs to leave her room to go to the job interview and get the job. And this is hard. Will she open the door?  Will she get to the job interview and if she does, will she get the job?

Echo comforts herself with repetitive actions and reassuring rituals. Her dialogue is sprinkled with well-worn and instantly recognisable phrases from television: the post-game interview, advertising slogans and jingles. 

The performance moves seamlessly into dance sequences that capture the character’s spirit and her humanity. 

Early on, the fourth wall is shattered and the audience’s presence is acknowledged.  Interacting with the audience puts us in a position of not knowing what to do; we experience with Echo her moments of trying to reference social clues, we interact, we empathise, and we identify with her.

Jen McArthur moves wonderfully, vocally she’s clear and strong, every physical and vocal nuance is meticulously observed. Her embodiment of the character is a joy to experience. A consummate performer she is both completely inside the character and perceptive of her audience’s responses and needs. She simultaneously inhabits a character challenged by social interaction and creates for the audience the sense of safety and surrender that comes from knowing you are in ‘good hands’.

This production engages on a deep and meaningful level while providing the audience with humour, warmth, and insight. Rich in symbolism, the plays final breakthrough is perfectly placed and deeply satisfying.


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Original, heart-felt and poignant

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 26th Feb 2012

Jen McArthur’s performance is comically inventive, narratively compelling, physically punctilious and creatively winning in her one-woman show Echolalia. It runs until tomorrow (February 27th) at Gryphon Theatre as part of the Wellington Fringe Festival.

Though produced by the international physical theatre and contemporary circus company Kallo Collective, Echolalia is a created and performed by Jen McArthur, with direction from the other members of the collective (Jo Randerson, Thom Monckton, Mel Hamilton, Sampo Kurppa and Fraser Hooper).

McArthur presents a socially stunted and behaviorally eccentric character, influenced by the supposed ‘social weirdness’ of autistic children (who McArthur observed while working with them on a holiday programme). However, the performance does not constitute a staging or analysis of autism or autistic social interactions; rather, it deals with the individual human experience and overcoming of psychological obstacles or fears.

As McArthur explains: “I became interested in the strength of the human spirit to overcome obstacles, no matter how eccentric the obstacle, or how eccentric the methods used to overcome them.” If the obstacle is how to pull off a largely non-vocal one-woman show during a Fringe festival alongside an International Arts Festival, then McArthur overcomes the obstacle marvelously and irrefutably.

Using contemporary, poetic clownery, beautifully-measured theatrics and surprising, expressive dance, Echolalia tells a story of a young woman, Echo, trying to leave her house for a job interview on three consecutive days. The minor obstacles are the three phone conversations she must have to arrange the interviews. The major obstacle is the front door, which represents the intermediary between her routine-ridden comfort zone (however odd some of the rituals are: think, brushing your arm hairs and lunging your way to the kettle) and the pressure-ridden rituals and social situations that lie beyond it.

The attention-to-detail in the performance is highly satisfying, and there is no doubt that this is a world-class physical theatre comic. Wellington-born McArthur trained at the NZ School of Dance,Circomedia Circus School Bristol and under the internally-renowned Lecoq clown teacher Giovanni Fusetti.

Not only is the performance tried, tested and perfected (Echolalia premiered last year at BATS, and the script has since been reworked with the assistance of Jo Randerson), but it is original, heart-felt and poignant.

It is something when you can say about a performance that both Charlie Chaplin and Samuel Beckett would have been proud (think Happy Days’ Winnie stuck in her pile of earth, going through her routines).

There are levels of meaning which carry on after you leave: Was there some statement of feminism with the-woman’s-place-is-in-the-home evocations; the Aunt Daisy’s Household Tips recitations? Was there an intentional androgyny, then? What was the relationship between the expressionist dance towards the end and the post-modern meta-theatricality/ audience interrogation? Was there something Pinteresque in the unspoken ‘outside’?

For an hour-long show, prompting those kinds of questions is a feat of artistry. If you see nothing else in the Fringe Festival…  


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