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Emotionally Excelled: How 'Odd Man Out' Portrays the introduction to autism - by Thomas Kuzma

2 March 2017

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The process of making a story can be quite difficult. How can one tell if they are not copying someone else’s work? Are they portraying the characters in the right way? How do I make my dialogue more natural? This is a matter that comes very strongly with autism. It can be quite difficult for a Neurotypical guy or gal to understand the mindset of someone on the spectrum unless they have had lived experiences with a person who is Atypical.

I was asked last December to meet with the crew of the current play called Odd Man Out at the Ensemble Theatre alongside Dr Tom Tutton. We were there to discuss how to portray autism in the best possible light. After some discussion we gave the director and the main cast a very clear viewpoint on what autism is and how a person like myself goes about my day whilst on the spectrum.

Recently I came to the premiere of ‘Odd Man Out’, written by David Williamson and Directed by Mark Kilmurry. I have to say I have never seen a more accurate portrayal of what it is like for one person to live with autism and what goes on in the mind of someone on the spectrum.

When we look at past portrayals of people on the spectrum, many of them have been rigid and lacking in depth. Now it is true that there may be Atypical people that may come off that way, but that is one small portion of the Aspie Community. Justin Stewart Cotta, the man who plays Ryan in the play, managed to not only utilise the advice I gave him, but through extensive research managed to elegantly weave together one of the best performances I’ve seen of someone on the spectrum.

The best part about his performance was that you could see the eagerness, the confusion and the passion that was inside his character throughout the play. He humanised autism and that means the world to me.

Lisa Gormley played Alice, the main character in this performance. Going in, I was curious as to what to expect from the lovely ladies role. During my autism advising alongside Tom, we went into deep detail about what it is like to live on the spectrum. Tom being the neurotypical doctor that he is, gave a professional view point, where as I talked about living on the spectrum in my day to day life.

You know, it’s not easy being an engagement officer. Now I had a wonderful time with the guys from the Ensemble theatre, however I had to remember some past experiences that weren’t too fun. In order to showcase what it means to live through a meltdown, I had to remind myself of some bad experiences. Now I didn’t do this because someone persuaded me to. I believe that I owe it to myself to deliver an accurate representation of the day to day life of being on the spectrum.

I’m heading off on a tangent, but it’s important to understand what must be done in order for someone to deliver a high quality product. If I hadn’t demonstrated a control meltdown, Justin wouldn’t have been able to perform an accurate performance and thus people wouldn’t have the best portrayal of what autism is. So listen up actors! Communication is key haha.

Let’s head back to the story. Odd Man Out has the making of a regular Boy meets Girl story. Most of the characters are well written, however I ask myself why they didn’t have another character on the spectrum. The old saying goes, when you’ve met one person on the spectrum, you’ve met one person on the spectrum. If they could have added another person on the spectrum, it would have shown that autism isn’t defined by a certain set of ‘rules’.

One of the aspects about living on the spectrum is wanting a relationship. I will admit I’ve made some stupid mistakes in the past, in the past month I took out 2 women on dates to realise that they were actually in relationships… Coming back to Lisa’s performance, Lisa didn’t just show love but also the frustration and sadness that would come with someone who is struggling with something she knew little about. When the story came to it’s satisfying conclusion, I was reminded that life on the spectrum is not a single life, that we can find someone who makes us feel whole.

Odd Man Out is only out for a few more weeks and I have to say you must check it out. I do wish there was another character on the spectrum in this play, but that’s okay. It has been perfectly directed and you can clearly see the time and effort put into this play. This play wasn’t written and performed, it was painted into my mind with the vibrant colours of what it means to be a Neurotypical person discovering autism for the first time.

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