Review: Stealth Aspies: Autistic People Speak, Laughing Horse at Bar 50

Paul Wady, author of Guerrilla Aspies (2014), returns to Edinburgh as part of the Free Fringe Festival with his most recent production: Stealth Aspies: Autistic People Speak. The word ‘Guerilla’ combined with the term ‘Aspies’ (short for Asperger’s Syndrome) denotes the mission of the group to rise above passivity and to make change. The Stealth Aspies call for an autistic space, a place to confront the stigma and stereotypes created by those ‘neurotypical’ members of society, many of whom are political leaders or settled in a position of power within the current sphere. Building on the success of previous artistic endeavours, Wady continues to facilitate The Autism Arts Festival, bringing together and empowering those who have also been diagnosed with autism.

Last year, Wady published a survey on Twitter to do some research surrounding people who have received
a diagnosis later in life, or have been forced to remain in the neurodiverse closet. The resulting response is performed by Wady and a group of four individuals who were also diagnosed with autism as adults. Poetry and autobiographical pieces flesh out life experiences of the Aspies: the trauma and liberation of diagnosis, the pressure to conform in a neurotypical world, removing myths surrounding the spectrum, and their quest to find self-acceptance in a society that cannot seem to accept or understand them.

Under the guise of the Stealth Aspies, the cast introduce themselves. Each possess a stage presence that is immediately engaging, and a wicked sense of humour ties laughter to changes in mood and scene. The sense of community in the room is unmistakable – slang and inside jokes explode in a collective glee, and empathy buzzes in the air. Here no one need be anything other than themselves.

The event of performance parallels with stories of having to ‘act’ in the general day-to- day, whether that be in the workplace, in social situations, or in appointments with so-called specialists. Autistic shutdowns melt into statistics, which soften into encouraging methods to cope when facing overwhelming stimuli. Ultimately, the Stealth Aspies have created a unique production with truly valuable content. The phrase “Cure Neurotypicals Now” screams from t-shirts and badges as the audience and performers come together after the show, mixing effortlessly amid the hubbub of Bar 50. “Autism has always been there, and it always will” Wady declares, concluding a beautiful and
necessary performance. Remember the Stealth Aspies, before long their voices are sure to be heard the world over.

Stealth Aspies: Autistic People Speak playing at the Laughing Horse@Bar 50 until August 19. For more information and tickets, see www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Stealth%20Aspies%3A%20Autistic%20People%20Speak%22

Josephine Balfour-Oatts

Josephine Balfour-Oatts

Josephine graduated from The University of Bristol with a BA(Hons) in Drama in 2016. Currently based in London, she is a keen writer with an interest in Experimental Theatre. You can spot her in any audience by her colourful glasses chains and energetic biro.