Stealth Aspies – Aspies Anonymous
  • By Ben Dali
  • |
  • 11th Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a beacon of individuality for our time: it presents a platform for anybody with the desire to express themselves and whatever makes them individuals. Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, perceived or actual disability, and any facet of humankind that makes you part of an in-group, this city and its festival will let you do you. It is perhaps surprising then, that amidst the ocean of niche markets, there are relatively few shows addressing the autistic spectrum – a social ‘disorder’ that affects about 1 in 60 (although it has been suggested that almost everyone displays tendencies that place us somewhere on the spectrum). Enter Paul Wady, Champion of the Autistics, on a mission to educate the world on how autism should not be classified as a disorder, and that those of us who display autistic attributes should embrace them as a positive part of our identities.

Paul Wady's Aspies shows have real potential to change lives

If I’ve lost you already, don’t waste your time reading further, if the review's not for you then the show certainly won't be. It is designed for the scientifically and behaviourally curious, and those who want to better understand autistic perspectives. Wady assembles a small group of autistic Edinburgh performers to read poetry by themselves and others, relating to their experiences and viewpoints. Some performance pieces impress and the performers, while perfectly competent, don’t deliver much material that will astound. What you will benefit from is the overall sense of self-acceptance and empowerement, as the brave, honest writers learn to accept themselves and what others may consider shortcomings, but are in fact unavoidable, and positive, attributes of their nature.

Early on, a member of the audience made non-verbal noises which may have drawn negative attention in another show. Wady, unphased, gave her a thumbs up and encouraged anyone in the room to avoid suppressing their ‘stims’ or however their attributes manifest. It really was a roomful of acceptance. I spoke to the girl’s parents after the show and they said they support autistic acts in a show of solidarity, rather than a voyage of discovery, and felt as though they were a part of a community during Stealth Aspies.

Wady and his co-performers Serin Thomasin and Alain English are among the rapidly increasing number of people being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum after reaching adulthood, and anyone who has ever considered themselves to be inexplicably different to most ‘normal’ people may discover a thing or two about themselves here. The material is interesting but a bit repetitive and people going for top quality spoken word may leave disappointed. But Wady and his shows Guerilla Aspies and Stealth Aspies have real potential to change lives, far beyond that of the more pleasurable four- and five- star shows of the Fringe.

Reviews by Victor Black

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Sarah, Alain, Janine, Hannah and Paul return to Edinburgh to share the life stories of other autistic people. Stories, poems and anything – you never know. The show is written from our online surveys and the company members' experiences. Be moved, amused and empowered. Meet us afterwards if you want. Share our lives. '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' **** (AYoungerTheatre.com).

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