Pointedly introduced in the third-person – ‘This is Thomas’ – ‘This is Rebecca’ – ‘This is Hannah’ –Stealth Aspies punctuated their performance with verbatim testimonies describing the impact of Asperger’s Syndrome/ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) on day-to-day life. I was particularly struck by the emphasis on those who have been diagnosed as adults, some of whom were in their 40s or 50s when light was shed on their sense of difference, coming for the most part as a profound relief. Having navigated the world of adolescence, work and play, many of these voices showed not only how difficult it had been to chart a path through life, but also how damned successful they had been at it. Successful careers, relationships and families had been forged at great personal cost. The energy and effort expended can only be described as heroic.
But what the cost, and how? By the strategy of masking. That is why I found the third-person introductions significant – ‘This is Hannah’ – but who and what is Hannah? In many situations, Hannah was a performance, a fully realised character created and perfected out of sheer necessity; the necessity to present a version of self that could be accepted and stood a chance of surviving the mystifying, overwhelming, disorderly wilderness of the ‘neuro-typical’ world.
Funny, poignant, relatable, outraged and outrageous, Stealth Aspies informed as it entertained with considered, artful confidence. Poetry, stand-up, testimony, agitating spoken word; it was all of these.
Cards on the table – I received a diagnosis of Asperger’s when I was 41. It explained so many things and, while shocking, set me on the long road to self-acceptance. Seeing this show took me a few more steps along that road, which is I hope being travelled by all who have received a diagnosis, all who are in the process, all neuro-typical friends and families and all who would see a ‘neuro-diverse’ world come about, in which all are loved and celebrated for their unique gifts and inimitable perspectives.