There is an autistic ensemble theatre company in Adelaide, Australia. They have just finished their run of “the history of autism’ with the final two shows being sold out. As was the case when the show was on for the Adelaide Fringe Festival the audiences were very mixed, with a range of diversities. WIthout exception the reaction was positive. Many are amazed that the entire cast are on the autism spectrum, some amazed that the company director is on the spectrum and that he wrote this poignant, funny and confronting piece of theatre. Others amazed that the acting is so good, or that it looks like ‘real theatre’ (probably because it is).
Younger or newly diagnosed autistics and their families are given a small insight into some of the possibilities that the future holds and a brief overview of how autism has been viewed over the decades. Cast members get to push themselves to acheive new things, learn new skills (I now how to look as if I am being electrocuted for example) and hang out with a bunch of amazing autistics and aspies aged from 18 to late 50’s. What a privilege. One of the things that amazes me is that people who are so different to each other and with such different skills and strengths can all shine with the hours of effort and mutual support that goes into a production like this.
An example of the joy that comes from being involved with a group of autistic/aspie peers was the 30 or so seconds where three cast members were backstage silently replicating the stimming scene that was happening on stage, whilst standing around another cast member (myself). They were all so happy and as I started to laugh silently (the company director has drilled us so much that we know never to make noise backstage) their smiles grew and grew and my laughter was so deep and joyous that the tears started to run down my face. It was an amazing moment – a moment where we were so deeply connected through our shared enjoyment of the fun we could have together – a perfect sense of belonging.
After the show we had a ‘party with autistic food’ – hot chips which I hate but most of the cast love. I stood off to the side and talked with some audience members and realised we made a difference to how people viewed autism and autistics potential and I was so proud to be a member of this unique theatre company.