The Big Things, at Barons Court Theatre, brings us into the world of Grace who, after meeting and falling in love with Malcolm and becoming a parent, is diagnosed with autism.
The London premiere is presented by Kibo Productions, who selected it from some 200 scripts received after an open submissions call. It’s directed by artistic director Sharon Willems and stars May Cunningham as Grace and Matthew John Wright as Malcolm.
The marketing for The Big Things‘ London season provoked a backlash online from the autistic community, many of whom felt that it perpetuated negative stereotypes of autism and particularly autistic mothers. In response, Kibo invited autistic artists to open a dialogue about future work, and also to take part in a post-show discussion with Manchester-based playwright Mike Heath.
It was my great privilege to chair this post-show talk after the performance at Barons Court Theatre on Friday 27 April 2018 with Mike Heath, producer Leo Bacica from Kibo and special guest and autism advocate Paul Wady, who agreed to take part as a result of online exchanges.
Since being diagnosed with autism at the age of 41, Paul Wady has become a leading voice for autistic representation. He is the author of Guerilla Aspies: A Neurotypical Society Infiltration Manual (how to look, sound and act ‘normal’). His stage show of the book has had runs in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe and was featured in last year’s first-ever Autism Arts Festival.
Below is an unedited podcast of the full discussion, which was incredibly open, generous and fair-minded. From my observation, there are good intentions all round here, and a real desire to raise awareness, understand different perspectives and encourage a diverse range of voices onstage. These are little things that can indeed lead to big things and, hopefully, positive change. I look forward to seeing what all involved do next based on this experience.
Post-show panel, from left to right, comprises me, producer Leo Bacica of Kibo Productions, playwright Mike Heath and autism advocate and artist Paul Wady. Event photography by Peter Jones.