After a string of successful shows last October, Monash Uni Student Theatre (MUST) and A_tistic present Them Aspies, a performance that explores modern perceptions of Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Part of the creative process is reflecting on past projects, and creators Jess Consalvez and Tom Middleditch wasted no time in bringing forth a refined version of their first show 6 months later that was absolutely stunning in its ability to up haul a storm of emotions in a thoroughly enjoyable hour.
An adult content warning at the beginning of the show warned the audience of possible sass and moral ambiguity that set the stage for a performance that was both hilarious and heart wrenching. Whether it was struggling to give a compliment to someone you like or wanting a girlfriend with nice hair, the underlying need for understanding was present within each of the narratives.
The concept behind Them Aspies was inspired by a growing need to properly represent stories of individuals with Asperger’s and autism that were previously marginalised and misunderstood. The idea was not to create theatre that was autism friendly but rather to present stories in their most raw and honest form. These types of honest portrayals in theatre are rare yet beautiful. At times, I found myself wholly relating to the characters’ emotions because as much as it is a show about the stories behind people with Asperger’s and autism, it is also a show about human experience as told through a perspective that has been overlooked by many.
Alongside the spectacular performance by the cast, the stage set up saw the audience facing each other, which added a layer of intimacy to the performance. In a square theatre with a triangle stage, the emotional breakdowns of the characters could be felt not only through their pained outcries but also by observing the expressions of fellow audience members. This type of audience transparency showcased the ability of theatre to transcend barriers and reach into the heart of every member of the audience to show that we were not alone in our reactions.
With conversation in regards to autism constantly present in the media and a rise in autism diagnoses, Them Aspies answers questions about autism and Asperger’s in an innovative and refreshing way that resonates with you long after the show is over.