The Misfit Analysis

Theatre is, for the most part, about telling stories with the aids of actors, scenery and props; in contrast, stand-up comedy is usually about a single person sharing their perspective of the world – or at least giving us a heightened version of that perspective. While The Misfit Analysis is classified under Theatre in the Fringe programme, this show is arguably much closer in format to stand-up. “A live art exploration into the mind and experience of Cian Binchy” is the no-holds-barred introduction projected onto a screen. Binchy’s goal here isn’t to make some point through a fictitious narrative; instead, he uses a mixture of live action, audience interaction, props, animated films and videos to offer us some sense of what the world is actually like for someone with autism.

There’s only one expert about autism in the room, and we’re looking at him.

It’s unfortunate, of course, that this requires him to spend quite a lot of his time highlighting and then undercutting the most commonly held – and inaccurate – ideas that most of us have about people on “the Autistic Spectrum”. Society, we’re told in no uncertain terms, has got the wrong end of the stick; it’s not that those with autism lack empathy or feelings, they just experience and express them differently. This means that The Misfit Analysis can be an uneasy experience for the audience, and not just those in the front rows who are “invited” on stage to participate in plate-spinning or a fake game-show highlighting the complexities of this particular learning difficulty.

The sad reality is that, unless we know someone in our family or wider social circle who has autism, our most likely source of knowledge will be films like Rain Man and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – on occasions, the show is even “interrupted” by clips of Dustin Hoffman and Leonardo DiCaprio “doing” autism. For the more literary among us, of course, it might be Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation of the book for the National Theatre, on which Binchy became an unpaid consultant. If nothing else, this show makes it clear – quite forcefully, on occasions – that none of this makes us experts. There’s only one expert about autism in the room, and we’re looking at him.

It’s fair to say that the edge of Binchy’s satire feels like it draws blood, not least the short film in which we see how ill-suited he was to the gardening course that some well-meaning support workers recommended – when what he really wanted to do was get into the performing arts. There’s plenty of anger here too, not least at the many life opportunities denied to him, which the rest of us take for granted. But this isn’t simply a rant; this may be a “magical spinning journey” into how he experiences the “angry” world around him, but there’s also fun to be had and the undoubted conclusion of this show is that we are all outsiders in some way. Oh, and that having a learning difficulty is certainly no bar to being able to create genuine and effective art.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Cian has autism. He likes to spin tin-openers. But he’s not an idiot. Journeying through the mischievous mind of a fascinating man, The Misfit Analysis takes us through a world of wheelchairs and blow up dolls in a captivating exploration of an autistic mind. Using multimedia, video projection and performance poetry, Cian playfully questions disability’s place in society. ‘Philosophical, mischievous, and exuberantly accessible’ (Stage on Eye Queue Hear). ‘The power to change theatre’ (Guardian on Access All Areas' Performance Making Diploma). ‘Busting disability arts out of its ghetto’ (DisabilityArtsOnline.org.uk on Eye Queue Hear).

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