Updates for The Duck

In these unprecedented times it’s hard to know what to say. One of the advantages of being autistic is that I often turn to just saying what I want to at these times, rather than falling back on meaningless platitudes. It doesn’t feel like a time for platitudes, it feels like a time for honesty.

As I’m writing we’ve just been told that schools will close on Friday and the isolation that has felt imminent for a long time might finally be arriving. I have felt like there is a small cat circling and pacing on my chest for the past few weeks. It’s been difficult to sit still and concentrate with too much nervous energy. I have planted far more seedlings than I had intended to. Each time I sat down to do some work at the computer I would receive another cancellation, either for The Duck or for my own work of public speaking and training events.

Meanwhile other events such as The Edinburgh Festival have announced that they plan to go ahead, but the Crowd Funder I had planned and that was set to go live end of March to raise the money for Edinburgh suddenly felt really crass and out of place in this new world.

I was driving to pick the children up from school yesterday, knowing that there are only two more days before they shut for an undefined amount of time. People were chatting on the streets and everything seemed normal as I drove through villages, but I felt the same thing that I experienced driving through shortly after my son was born; the whole world is different and no one seems to really know that yet.

Currently some of our performances in June have been cancelled – completely understandably (check here for updated events), this is a time when we have to put the health and safety of our audience first. I would never forgive myself if I was the cause of someone’s poor health.

Unfortunately this also means that our other means of raising funds for Edinburgh Fringe are reduced, and alongside the fact that I am self-employed and have had my other work cancelled too, this is no small concern. We have already signed a contract to pay for the venue in Edinburgh in advance which is due shortly, and at a time of financial hardship this could see the end of Autact’s journey.

I am so grateful that writing is already giving me a creative outlet for my worries. I am writing a poem a day for as long as I remember to; to help me process all the change and difference on the horizon. I have planned as much as I can. I have problem solved to my limits.

There is an idea that autistic people don’t need people in the same ways as others do, but that simply isn’t true. We tend not to be good at the ‘little and often’ approach, we tend to prefer to binge on socialising and then rest like a torpid snake. Isolation is going to be difficult for everyone and we need to look after each other as much as possible.

When all this is over we are going to need the Arts to come together again. We are going to need to work through what has happened and celebrate the heroic efforts of those on the frontline throughout this; our cleaners, our shelf stackers, our checkout workers, our nurses, our porters, our doctors, our delivery drivers, our paramedics, and so many more behind the scenes working to keep things going so that we can protect ourselves.

Whilst we are not going to be going ahead with the crowdfunder I have set up a page for anyone who wants to support us at this time. You can find more information about ways to support The Duck here, where you can watch my now completely out of date video that I made for the crowdfunder, and enjoy the fact that whilst I was trying to record it a couple of ducks distracted me.

I’ve also made my short collection of poems available on Kindle to buy if you’d prefer to have something to read as well!

Please do not donate anything that will leave you out of pocket, you can also support us by sharing our work and telling people about the show. If you have bought tickets for any of our shows already then please get in touch with the venues directly.

Above all we wish you health and happiness.

Love

Rhi

Playing at Autism

by Rhi Lloyd-Williams

Two years ago, Jo Loyn and I were sitting in my kitchen in Wales, watching the rain tear at the hills in a stereotypically Welsh way, and enjoying a Summery mug of tea, when she asked me if I’d be interested in writing a play for an actor she wanted to work with.

I have to admit that my first thought was a wary one. I’m a poet, not a playwright. I write factual articles about autism, not fanciful theatrical ones. I’m autistic and straightforward, not a flamboyant lovey-darling. But using my autistic hyper-focus, within a week, I had sent her the first copy of The Duck

I was nervous as I drove the five hours out of the mountains and oaks and onto the concrete and tar, on my way to see if a fledgling play could emerge from the paper. I hadn’t met Lucy Theobald before, and for all I knew she could be just awful.

I needn’t have worried. I watched her elegance and poise develop its own tension and movement and she developed her own stims (a way of giving herself pleasant sensory information). There is a physicality to autism, even in those of us who are adept at hiding it. 

I watched Jo pull a performance from the flat pages of my words; playing with form and ideas with such skill and ease, as though they were hidden in the words for her eyes only. I watched Lucy develop the layers of her character under Jo’s direction, and was struck by the similarity with the way I had constructed my own socially acceptable mask. 

I was there to ensure that everyone understood why I would do this or that, why this was confusing and that was easy. I felt heard, I felt understood, but nothing could have prepared me for our very first performance when an autistic woman came to me afterwards and said simply, ‘You put me on stage.’ What critic could ever rival that for a review? What really struck me though, was that it wasn’t just autistic people who were connecting to the character, non-autistic people were too.

One of the things about being autistic and not knowing it, is that you grow up alone. You feel like the whole world is in on a joke that you don’t get. You can learn to laugh along, you can learn to pretend to get the joke, but you never get to feel that uncontrollable surge of glee, and instead of living, you are constantly watching for your cues to laugh. This is probably a terrible analogy to use, since another stereotype of autism is that we have no sense of humour when most of us do. 

Perhaps theatre and comedy are the purest of connections; people sitting together with no eye contact, not touching, but sharing an experience and responding to it as one. We’re not so different, not when you know what goes on behind the scenes.

You can watch The Duck at:-

The Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, on Thursday the 19th of September at 7.30 pm 

The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth, on Saturday the 28th September at 7pm

Artistic Autism Awareness

by Rhi Lloyd-Williams @outfoxgloved

 

It’s Autism Awareness Month, a time for everyone to be aware of autism. Is it hiding behind that lamppost? Is it watching from your closet? Will it clasp your leg with a leathery claw from beneath the bed?

 

Probably not. Probably.

 

Autism Awareness is a curious beast, being aware of autism is a bit like being aware that a foreign country exists; you’ve heard of it, you might know a few stereotypes about the people who live there, but beyond that, all most people really know is that it’s a bit… foreign.

 

Autism Awareness can feel like a sensory bombardment of clamouring noise. There are the people who hold up autism by the throat and denounce it as the enemy. There are the people who give it a patronising pat on the head and tell us all how weird autism is, but that it should be accepted anyway. There are a thousand voices crescendoing with Autism Awareness.

 

And somewhere beneath that noise, there’s a voice, or a sign, or a wave of a hand, of autistic people waiting to be listened to.

 

I’d love it if people were a little more aware of that voice. A little more willing to listen. When you’re talking about autism, you’re talking about people with a social processing condition, this doesn’t make us the most persistent social communicators. By definition, you might need to listen a little harder, seek us out, make a point of amplifying those voices.

 

This Autism Awareness Month I would love it if everyone used the time to seek out autistic voices and expression. Find the autistic artists, musicians, poets, read something by an autistic author, find a way to listen to a new perspective and see another angle. Be truly aware of autism and all its twists and turns.

 

Autism awareness doesn’t end on April the 30th, it’s a year-round thing, it’s a lifelong thing, it’s a human thing. If I can tempt you along to hear my voice through another’s lips in June, then I would very much love to see you there.

 

“The Duck” is my first play, it dances around stories and memories to give one angle of autism.

 

You can find where and when it will be performed here