Statement from Writer

Statement by Alex Oates (Writer) on Twitter on 1st February 2019

[This was initiated by a thread by Krystina Nellis about the play.  In response to Anna Bewick, who suggested that “this is fundamentally dehumanising to autistic people; and also dismissive to an autistic person who has raised legitimate concerns to just say a video will explain,” Alex said the following…]

Hey Anna, I’m happy to explain, I just thought a picture is worth a thousand words etc. The autistic character is a nonverbal 11 year old with challenging behaviour, the play’s focused on how his parents cope with him going into a residential school… (1/8)

So while the dramatic thrust is with the parents I didn’t want to exclude their child from the stage as often disabled people are underrepresented. So how to portray this sensitively was the question… (2/8)

I’ve worked for over ten years with people like the character Laurence and care deeply for them, I recently left care work but I see them about once a month on a voluntary basis. The idea of a neurotypical adult actor to me seemed offensive… (3/8)

An actor somewhere else on the spectrum was an option but still difficult to effectively portray a child… (4/8)

So I had the idea of a puppet and raised it with all the parents I knew, they thought it was an exciting idea. Puppetry as I’m sure you know is a highly effective branch of theatre with an amazing history. (5/8)

But we needed the right team so I got in touch with Sian who is a puppet designer/director who I have worked on care jobs with, she also has lots of hands on experience in the field of disability. (6/8)

She spent 2 years researching this and designed the character of Laurence. We cast the fab Hugh to puppeteer because he’s brilliant and can bring this to life. We’ve also consulted with the NAS and considered autism at every step of the creative project. (7/8)

I understand that disabled people don’t want to be ‘othered’ but I stand by my conviction that this will not dehumanise Laurence. All the best X  (8/8)

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