Since giving birth to my son in May, this blog has taken a more personal direction. I didn’t think I could get much more personal than my book, in which I chronicled my life with my dad. Writing about him so soon after he’d died was challenging to say the least. I was lucky enough to work with my creative partner, Richard Butchins, who I have collaborated with on a number of projects. Without him, the book would simply not have been written.
Richard has made all sorts of interesting stuff, such as producing and directing documentaries, writing novels and making art films. Our latest project is a one-woman, one act play called 213 Things About Me. Richard wrote the script, which he’s also directing, I’m performing the monologue.
The play is based on the life of one of his friends, Rose. She was an autistic savant who taught herself to play multiple musical instruments, 5 languages, complex mathematics, elegant calligraphy and many other extraordinary things. She was diagnosed with Aspergers Disorder in 2013, the same year she, unfortunately took her own life at the age of 36.
Despite her numerous talents, Rose was unable to navigate the social interactions that neurotypical people take for granted. She had the naivety of a child and was unable to read people’s intentions, and as such she was often exploited and deceived. But she was also very funny, warm and wry. The play is based on her writing, conversations she had with Richard and the list of “213 Things” she wrote about herself immediately after her diagnosis. The list is an insight into a unique and brilliant mind. Here are a few of the traits she documented:
‘I started teaching myself to read when I was 3.’
‘I kept a diary as a child in order to remember how terrible it was to be a child.’
‘I can’t imagine anything worse in all the world than a party.’
Rose and Richard were close friends and he was understandably devastated when he heard that she’d killed herself. She left no suicide note. As a way to process his loss, he made an art film about her life, which I narrated. He developed the script from the film’s voice over and we are staging three scratch performances at the Battersea Arts Centre on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of November. We’ve been supported by The Arts Council and the good people at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Richard and I also have another book in the pipeline. However, it seems that our most successful collaborations are the ones where we’ve processed loss. Rose died 6 months before my dad and we found ourselves grieving loved ones at the same time; unwilling members of a horrible club.
I should add the play is rather funny; Rose had an arch sense of humour and Richard has captured what it is to be autistic because he’s on the spectrum himself. The play also features three original songs, composed by Rose.
There’s a degree of responsibility that comes with playing someone who really lived. I never met her, but by all accounts she was vibrant, sweet and irreplaceable. Hopefully I’ll do her justice.
You can book tickets here and you only pay what you can afford. Please do come.