I WAKE UP. Sarah is practising her lines in the kitchen. I apply make-up precisely hoping that it’ll make me feel confident… it does. I look fantastic. I complete my look with my iconic orange hat (that I bought from Thailand). I have a choice of two T-shirts I can wear for the performance:
“Neurotypical People Scare Me.” Or “I’m too Busy Processing to Relate to You.”
…. I go for Neurotypical people scare me… but keep the other one too – if I sweat a lot during the performance I can alternate throughout the week.
I head for the kitchen and like a lost woodlouse I amble around – script in hand – putting different emphases on lines in my monologue trying to work out if they sound better/more powerful/funnier. I then see if I can remember a poem off by heart, so I don’t need to use to the script when on stage…. I conclude…. though I can remember the poem on my own in my room, I can’t do it with someone in front of me – the lines just wander off and swap around… the script stays!!!
Paul and Sarah go over the running order with me…. I don’t really know what they’ve just said (I’m awful at retaining information!)… I nod… but I know it’s going to be a surprise when I’m at the venue!
They are concerned that Alain’s coach won’t make it on time. I’m concerned that I might forget how to read on stage. I’m not actually nervous about performing…. I’ve done quite a lot of that, in front of quite a lot of people (biggest claim to fame was a warm up act before Carol Anne Duffy) … it was the content of my pieces that made me nervous. I don’t tell most of my friends that I’m neurodivergent… I especially do not tell them I’m Asperger’s for fear of prejudice… I didn’t tell my university, and I’ve never told a boyfriend…. And now I was going to tell a whole bunch of strangers!!!! But these were strangers I would never see again. I could have what would hopefully be a cathartic feeling of ‘Coming Out’ (the name of one of the pieces I am performing) with no concern with follow-up implications or questions, right?
ANYWAY. I’ve made my mind up that I’m doing it now – it would be extremely awkward to live with Paul, Sarah and Alain for four more days and refuse to partake in the show wouldn’t it? Yes… I think it would.
I check my door is locked (five times) …. And the three of us walk to the venue. (only ten minutes away!)
I’m hungry. Really hungry. I say,
“I’ll be back in five!.. .I need a sandwich.”
I go down the street, and under one bridge… then another bridge… No sandwich shops!!! I go back to the venue and head down the street the other way… No sandwich shops!!!
Why are there no sandwich shops?I’m ‘Hangry’ – eating a sandwich is more important to me than the show at this point – elbowing members of the crowd in front of me.
Finally – (ten minutes before show!)- a sandwich shop appears on the corner – BUT – it only takes Cash!!!! – Why? – I count out. – £2.30… not enough for a sandwich in Edinburgh!!! (like £7.00!!) – I could just afford a bacon breakfast bap…. Despite being vegetarian I went for it – FUCK IT! I’m hungry.
I leg it back. Pushing the stale breaded un-sauced sandwich into my mouth. Ten minutes until the show. I go to the loo, I enter the room.
Alain has just arrived (to everyone’s relief!!!) – he looks a bit frazzled from the 11-hour coach. – they chat… but I’m not entirely sure what’s being said. I just finger my script, checking it’s all there.
A modest audience enters, and after a minute or two we all introduce ourselves – I’d forgotten about this bit! – I make something up on the spot and tell them my age of diagnoses (10), and how I met the Stealth Aspies (through reviewing their show).
Sit back down. No idea when I’m on next (though I don’t really mind that much) … Sarah points to me… I stand up, walk to the stage and begin. First with my monologues… and then later with my own poetry.
I politely ask Paul to move in the middle of my performance as he’s sitting a bit behind me and that makes me nervous. I can see the light from his I-Pad turning on and off – and it puts me off.
… But I have a problem when I’m nervous… I chat… I think it might strengthen my performance… but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway… the show is now running way behind schedule!!!
Sarah – mid-performance – edits, swaps and cuts the scripts – we just make it – another show race in (as they are booked back to back).
Bucket in hand, we politely eyeball the audience on their way out… using our gag,
“Remember… Autistic people don’t like change.”
We split the money – £10.00 each. WOOP! Better than nothing!
Some audience members stay and talk to us afterwards at the bar – a man with a ginger beard tells me how he enjoyed the performance – and a woman with bi-polar sits down for a drink with us, she tells me about a support group she runs.
“It’s nice to have a group of people you can just discuss things with, without having to explain them first.”
Her husband, who had also been in the audience joins, he tells us of how he’s recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s. He’s almost proud. It is new, exciting and liberating. He has told his work colleagues and friends. I silently compare this to my experiences of shame, silence and masking.
– he then goes on to say that his family don’t really believe the diagnosis though. – and don’t like him talking about it.
It was interesting hearing about how other Asperger’s individuals reacted.
Anyway, first show down… six to go!!!!
… Time to be entertained by the almost overwhelming cornucopia of other fringe shows!!!!