Beehavioural Problems: Something Something Autism

Stephen Catling is an intelligent man, having put his biomedical sciences university studies into good use in various workplaces. At various points in a deliberately chaotic show, he wonders if other people, including members of the audience with whom he interacts, are on the autistic spectrum –he is an autistic person himself. Then again, a couple of front-row interactions with the audience were reminiscent, at least to me, of unreasonable schoolteachers: at one point, an audience member answered a question, only to be almost barked at for being so stupid as to answer a rhetorical question. Except it wasn’t immediately obvious it was rhetorical, so who is really at fault here?

Photo by James Mileham.
Photo by James Mileham.

Mind you, such weird conversations are probably nothing compared to the sort of toxic environments Catling found himself in, working in laboratories. I was taught at business school that people while on paper (or on email) people leave companies, they really leave certain managers who they don’t have a good rapport with, for whatever reason. So it was with Catling, who faced line managers who were dismissive of his autism.

It annoys me when people say autistic people take everything literally, because, if anything, that’s a kleptomaniac,” Catling almost fumes, dispelling some other myths about autism. Catling provided a very perceptive take on Sia, who faced heavy criticism for the nature of her responses to critics and detractors who were unhappy that an actor who doesn’t have autism, Maddie Ziegler, was cast as a non-verbal autistic schoolgirl in Sia’s musical movie Music. Sia has also been associated with Autism Speaks, which according to Catling sees autism as a disease that should, like other diseases, be treated with a yet-to-be-found cure.

This is the sort of context that adds gravitas to an otherwise bonkers show – two members of the audience were pitted against one another, challenged to consume as much yoghurt within a certain timeframe, but with chopsticks. This late-night absurdist show won’t be to everyone’s pleasure and is best enjoyed with an open mind and open heart.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

He who makes a bee-ast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

What’s it like being an autistic person in workplaces that (despite what they claim) don’t really want people to “bee” themselves?

Keep it Fringe 2023 Award Winner Stephen Catling brings us a surrealist comedy escapade in his debut hour. Meet a panda game show host, dog priest and a stand-up crab as Stephen takes us on a journey through a series of weird and wonderful sketches that both celebrate and reflect on being a neurodivergent adult.

The Space @ surgeons hall theatre 2
Dates: Aug 4-12, 14-26

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