Autism Awareness Week: Day 3 – Newt Scamander amongst others

The third report from my sister about her experiences as an autistic person, in aid of #AutismAwarenessWeek 2020.

Disclaimer

Views expressed by this autistic may or may not reflect the views of other autistics. Every autistic is unique. I do not seek to dictate to anyone how they should think. That is not the autistic way. We do tend to be in favour of free expression and free will, providing nobody is being hurt. There is no intention of offending or distressing you. “I did not get where I am today by” wanting to be the same as everybody else. Yes, I realised I was different, but that did not result in me wanting to mimic as some autistics do. My family accepted me as I was and did not put pressure on me to change. The way to earn the respect, trust and loyalty of an autistic is to let them be what they are. Some do want to fit in; others do not. I have never had the mindset of King Louie. I might not be a good fit for this world or society, but I enjoy being completely my own person. If you watch a film where the outcast becomes super popular at the end, that is not my ambition in life. I would much rather follow the lead of Newt Scamander from “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, who is basically the Chris Packham of the wizarding world. I don’t know if he is intended to be autistic, but he is one of the best adult representations I have seen. Yes, he does find a friend and a girlfriend because that is usually how the formula goes, but he remains true to himself. He has discovered what he wants to do with his life and is happy to remain unpopular. He does not change to fit in. He is my kind of hero and I try to follow his example.
Rowena

“Do you know why I admire you, Newt? … You do not seek power or popularity. You simply ask is the thing right in itself?”
Dumbledore

Newt cares about creatures and protecting them is his life’s goal. However, he also cares about humans, although they often rub him the wrong way. It is fair to say that he isn’t well-versed in polite conversation, but he is loyal to those who look past that.

“We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt. They are currently in alien terrain, surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet. Humans.”
Newt

I like to pretend to be Newt’s apprentice if I need to overcome my reluctance to do something annoying, but necessary. (Like making a phone call to a certain place that shall remain nameless.) I have a pen that looks like Newt’s wand and a couple of Nifflers, plus Pickett. I also wore my “evil” T-shirt with Jason and Freddy on. I like watching horror because I can empathise with either the victim or the monster, depending on my mood. Some monsters are just misunderstood. If you deliberately go to Camp Blood and provoke Jason who just wants a quiet life, then frankly, I have no pity for you. Jason was disabled and he was bullied. He drowned while nobody was watching. He was resurrected by the Spirit of the Lake and lived in the woods as an outcast, only to see his mother killed. I can’t really blame him if he has a grudge against the whole of humanity. (Maybe – I used my imagination.) You don’t have to stop using your imagination just because you are an adult. I do not care what society thinks about it. Society has always been a pain in the bum for those who dare to be different either through choice or because they were born disabled in some way. I have little patience for the “hidden social rules” that constantly trip autistics up. There are “mimics/maskers” who blend in; but that is their choice and they are motivated to do so. Other autistics are keener on being true to themselves and are less motivated. I am one of those, although I do try to be polite. Usually, this means I don’t say very much though. I am a writer; not a talker.

Is It Okay?”

I do not personally approve of April Fools’ Day because I do not often find pranks, teasing or banter to be very funny, especially if directed at a vulnerable person. I do not easily distinguish between friendly banter and bullying, unless it is on a comedy show such as “The Last Leg” or if I know you well. (Bear in mind, even if I know you well, this is not a guarantee that I will recognise it as friendly, especially if I am tired or not in the right frame of mind to appreciate the difference.) You can not know how much stress we might already have experienced. If we explode in your face, that usually just means that YOU were the final straw. Autistics often repress their anger in order to be more pleasing to you. It is perhaps unfortunate that banter is considered to be part of “normal” conversation. If you attempt it and get silence, it could be because we have no idea how to respond; it could be that we are biting our tongue; it could be that we are processing and trying to think of a comeback that won’t be interpreted as “rude” or “defensive” or one of the multitude of ways non-autistics choose to wrongly interpret us. Just try to remember that we might not be communicating at the same level. Just remember that.

Assume makes an ass of you and me.”

I chuckled in response to this, when told it at the Bolton ASC after-diagnosis course, proving that I do have a sense of humour. I just laugh when I find something genuinely amusing. Social laughter for the sake of socialness is not something I do. It just distracts from the conversation. We are all human. We do not need to prove that. Some autistics prefer companionable silence to shallow conversation. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I was never willingly social as a child, never willingly social as a teenager and I am not willingly social as an adult. Conversation is only satisfying if everyone is speaking the same language at the same level. Autistics seem to have their own hidden rules of communication and manners. For despite the myths, autistics care about manners. I have the manners that I was taught as a child. Once we have successfully been taught a rule, we don’t tend to break it, at least not on purpose. Why is modern society so rude? (I blame the internet.)

Goodbye and please try to be kind and polite. If in doubt, ask; NEVER ASSUME!

Autism awareness logo

Autism Awareness Week: Day Two – Such Fun!

Disclaimer

Views expressed by this autistic may or may not reflect the views of other autistics. They are based on my personal experiences which may or may not reflect the experiences of other autistics. Views are not intended to distress or offend. Please be respectful of each other at this vulnerable time. Please practice patience and understanding. Everybody is unique and everybody deserves to be heard and valued. Everybody is doing what they can. Let all past grievances be put aside. This might not be the crisis that we were expecting to be dealing with in the UK, but I do believe that this might be the one to remind us that we are all human and that love is always stronger than intolerance. If we work together, we can get through this. Keep hope alive for a better future.
Rowena
(Autism advocate)

Autistics can be creative in many ways. Some of us write poetry. Here is one of mine.

If You Can…

If you can hold your tongue while all about you are waggling theirs;
If you can lose yourself within the magic pages of a book you hold dear;
If you can hug a well-worn bear in the sanctuary of your room day or night;
If you can find yourself within a cartoon beast of moral character;
If you can show compassion for those who are like you and those who are not;
If you can weep alone for the world that is dying and yet while there is life, there is hope;
If you can make a stand for what is right and not be swayed;
If you can choose the path of thorns;
If you can spread your tattered wings;
If you can be yourself, no matter what;
Then you’ll be the brave autistic soul that you are.

(With thanks to Rudyard Kipling for his poem, “If.”)

“Would You Like to See?”

One of my favourite autistic Youtubers has also composed a poem.

This is so beautiful and heart-felt. Not all autistics would feel comfortable talking to a camera or sharing their vulnerability, but professional Youtubers have learned the skills to do so. They are a vital source of encouragement and education.

Here is a video that a group of autistic Youtubers have put together on behalf of “The National Autistic Society” for spreading awareness to the public.

Goodbye and keep being kind.

Autism awareness logo

Autism Awareness Week: Day 1 – Fee Fie Foe Fun!

My sister Rowena does not have a blog of her own and has no desire to run one. Nevertheless she is an excellent writer and for #AutismAwarenessWeek she is writing a series of pieces about being autistic and has invited me to share them with people who might be interested.
Gareth

Disclaimer

Views expressed by this autistic may or may not reflect the views of other autistics. This is my personal perspective from my personal experience. I do not have the experience of being a parent and I have never formed friendships or been in a relationship. Do not feel pity for me. I genuinely prefer my own company, even though there are people who I like to spend time with. This year is being unusually brutal, but it is not the isolation that is giving me trouble. Introverts, autistic or not, are likely to have built up better coping skills and I am hoping to share some of those with you. I cannot guarantee that my idea of fun will be your idea of fun, but you never know. I think it is important for anyone, introverted or extroverted, child or adult, male or female “etc. etc. and so forth” to be able to entertain themselves, by themselves. It is vital for everybody’s mental health, especially at a time of crisis. There is no wrong or right way of coping. I will be giving honest perspectives that are not intended to offend or distress you. Since this is Autism Awareness Week, there may be an educational segment. We shall see. Thank you for reading this and please feel free to share with your friends, if you think they might be entertained or interested.
Rowena (Autistic Advocate & “Mute”)

Fee Fie Foe Fun!

Here are some ideas for having fun on your own.

  • Read or listen to a book. (I prefer a “proper” book with pages!)
  • Watch something. (What you want to watch via DVD or other means.)
  • I visit a site where I can play trivia games. (I’m a mine of information.)
  • Make a list of whatever you fancy making a list of. (All my books!)
  • Play a board game with yourself. (For prizes!)
  • Puzzle Books (Dot 2 Dot is my favourite.)
  • Computer Games (Hidden Object quests & Matching relax my brain.)
  • Drawing (I hand-make cards for my family.)
  • Create interesting meals. (Mix cereals together at breakfast time.)

“Would You Like to See?”

The best cartoon aimed at autistics and their families is currently “Pablo” which is about the imagination of an autistic boy who is sensitive and rarely speaks. He has support from his Mum, his Grandmother and other relatives, but he likes to solve problems for himself with the aid of the Book Animals. Pablo has a room full of cuddly animals, just like mine. When he is anxious, he draws pictures and interacts with them. This is when the program turns into a cartoon. The beginning and end are live-action. Noa is a nervous dinosaur, Draff the giraffe is obsessed with facts, Mouse does not like loud noises, Wren sings and flaps, Tang the orangutan is always active and Llama repeats phrases. Each one symbolises an autistic trait. Problems that autistics face in daily lives are addressed in a sensitive manner. The messages are always positive and there are autistic actors involved. I am glad that our voices are starting to be heard.

Here is a link to the title sequence for Season 1.

I hope that this show can help reduce the stigma attached to autism. There have also been positive representations in “Sesame Street” and “Arthur,” so I am pleased that today’s autistic children, who grow to be autistic adults, will have something to relate to. I am from a less enlightened time, but I still managed to find avatars for myself. I did not know that I was autistic, but I definitely did know that I was different. I was not diagnosed until my 40’s. I am positive about autism and believe that a diagnosis does help some autistics to understand and accept themselves. It all depends on the individual. It is definitely not all doom and gloom and the best people to teach you about autism are autistics themselves.

Goodbye and take care of each other and most importantly, Be Kind.

Coming soon – Red Rising: Wrath, Talking Pictures TV and more

Hello again. How are you? It’s round-up time again and whilst I’ve been recording some more reviews for the Talking Pictures TV podcast, some good friends have been much more productive.

The latest edition of the Talking Pictures TV Podcast is out now. Now being overseen by Mel Byron, Daniel Reifferscheid and Scott Phipps, it’s in a slightly shorter but hopefully more regular format. And they’ve kindly included my cheerful appreciation of Hammer Film’s loony fantasy adventure The Lost Continent, which will be appearing on the UK channel on 4th March at 12.10am. You can download the podcast from your favourite player or the home page.

Rik Hoskin has let me know that his second graphic novel set in the world of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising books is about to be unleashed on the 19th March. Set in an empire that spans the solar system, where people are born into strict castes and most are forced to live as slaves for a ruling elite called the Golds. Red Rising – Sons of Ares: Wrath continues the story of how disgraced Gold Fitchner became the leader of a ruthless resistance movement known as the Sons of Ares. I loved the first volume and I can wholeheartedly recommend this SF epic. You can get a taste of it from the trailer below:

Finally I’ve been continuing my work at Bolton Little Theatre, producing soundscapes for Things I Know to be True and Brighton Beach Memoirs. I’m grateful for the help of two fresh volunteers Steven and Sam who come on to the sound side lately. Here’s two promos I’ve put together for the productions too.

A short monologue from this acclaimed production.
On stage 30th March – 4th April 2020

Peckinpah for Christmas -Official Talking Pictures TV Podcast

Who says Christmas must be a time for traditions? The latest episode of The Official Talking Pictures TV Podcast is out now in time for Christmas and once again I’m pleased to say I have been included, despite submitting two decidedly unseasonable movie reviews. Creator and outgoing producer Adam Roche has selected my thoughts on Straw Dogs, the infamous 1971 thriller starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.

Looking at the list of upcoming films and television on Talking Pictures last month, I was aware that this was likely to be a Christmassy edition, but when it came to titles I could talk about knowledgeably, it was generally the darker hued ones. Although I did consider the Alistair Sim Scrooge but I had a feeling it has already been covered, or at least would likely to be a popular choice by my fellow #podcastpals.

It’s another excellent show, with lovely reviews from the regulars, most of which have a holiday feel. It also marks a changing of the guard, as Adam is moving on to new opportunities, although he’ll still be contributing the occasional review in his inimitable style. In 2020 I’m excited to hear that the podcast will steered by three superb podcasters and regular voices Mel Byron, Scott Phipps and Daniel Reifferscheid.

This is probably my last post of 2019, so I wish you a Happy Christmas and a marvellous New Year.

Cast rehearsing

Dick Whittington on The One Show

According to Charles Dickens, Christmas is a time when old ghosts come back to haunt you and I’m getting a small taste of that at the moment. Dick Whittington, the first pantomime I wrote, together with Pamela Hope, for my local group Mawdesley Amateur Dramatics Society, and the second to be published, is now appearing on BBC1’s early evening magazine The One Show.

Winterslow Drama Group in Wiltshire chose to perform my version of the famous English panto, and now they are being mentored by actor and pantomime legend Christopher Biggins. Clips of their rehearsals and his advice are being threaded into three editions of the programme leading up to Christmas, starting from 12th December, and continuing on 13th and 16th December. You can watch them for up to 30 days later on the BBC iPlayer.

Here is the first installment on BBC iPlayer. Panto feature starts at 12:56 minutes in.

This may or may not surprise you but I don’t retain a full memory of previous scripts in my head. So there are moments watching this where lines and names come as a surprise to me too. I think the cast are doing a superb job. Christopher Biggins is an actor I’ve respected for both his comedy performances in the likes of Porridge and Psychoville and drama too. Who can forget his sociopathic Nero in I, Claudius? When it comes to pantomime he has an incredible fund of experience as a performer and director, so I would always pay attention to him. I’m hoping he liked our script, even with its alterations to the classic plot.

Christopher Biggins

You always have a special place in your heart for your first, and Dick Whittington will always have a lot of good memories for me. Not only was I learning the ropes of what made a good panto script, but I was also playing the Dame, which might make you suspect I gave myself all the best lines, but that is absolutely not the case loves! Since this series has started, it has been fun to hear from my old former cast mates who are amused to be reminded of their old lines again, just as I am.
At that time MADS was a fairly low ebb in terms of cast and resources. We had the village hall (which looks uncannily similar to Winterslow’s btw) and good costume designers but in terms of sets, props, light and sounds we had recently lost a lot of expertise. So one of the driving factors of that script was that it was simple to stage and its a virtue I have tried to keep to with all my subsequent scripts. I always advise that groups can build on my descriptions and effect suggestions if they fancy it.
Probably the most important lesson I learnt that initial time out was not to try to be too surreal or too intellectual with my jokes. All the best laughs come from audacious groaners – the chicken run joke for example, or good character stuff that the audiences recognise in themselves, or logical stupidity, such as the henchmen threatening Hugo and the Baroness with pretend guns because they cannot afford a real one, followed by established idiot Hugo claiming he’s helpless because they have got him covered. And don’t be embarrassed by happy accidents. I wrote a line about Dick being spotted around the docks just as a plot point, not realising the innuendo until audiences started laughing on the nights.

If you would like to read the script yourself or maybe even consider it for your own theatre group, please take a look at my author’s page at Lazy Bee Scripts.

I knew about this One Show coverage from the Winterslow Drama Group home page, and only knew it had started when a friend texted me to say he had just seen my name on the telly. So I have no idea what is going to happen in the next few editions, but I’ll certainly be watching to find out!
Merry Christmas!

Christmas pantomimes come earlier every year

Hello, hope you’re well and keeping busy. I am delighted that four productions of my pantomimes are underway this Christmas season.

The Bodicote Players in Banbury and Woodhouse Phoenix in Hatfield are staging Rumplestiltskin. You can watch the former between 3rd December and 7th December, and the latter in the new year, January. Meanwhile, down the road from me, in Oldham, there’s a production of Aladdin in January.. Wish I could tell you more about that production but I have not been given any more details. Finally Winterslow Drama Group, in Wiltshire are staging Dick Whittington. Intriguingly their website tells me that they have been filmed by BBC1’s The One Show for a feature in December. You can rest assured I’ll be reporting on that when I know when it’s being broadcast. Many thanks to all these groups for showing faith in my writing, and that of my co-scripters Pam Hope and Adrian Barradell.

Rumpelstiltskin poster

Joining BERGcast – X the Unknown

I’m delighted to announce that not only is there a new episode of BERGcast, the podcast celebrating and investigating the entire Quatermass phenomena over the years, but that I am a guest on it. Jon Dear kindly invited me to join him and Howard David Ingham on Skype to discuss X – The Unknown, Hammer’s unofficial follow-up to their massively successful movie The Quatermass Xperiment. Wanting to make another Quatermass film, but denied permission by Nigel Kneale to use his character, Hammer turned to production assistant Jimmy Sangster to write a script in a similar unearthly vein, but featuring a surrogate scientist called Royston. Eventually Oscar-winning character actor Dean Jagger played the maverick scientist in his first and so far only appearance.

You can hear us discuss the film’s plot, its origins, its background of growing public unease over nuclear weapons and atomic energy, and Frazer Hines’ child acting precociousness. It was great fun to record and to rewatch this entertaining SF monster movie from early days of Hammer Studios. Find BERGcast on Apple Podcasts, Podbean, or Jon Dear’s own site bergcast.room207press.com/

Whilst on the subject of film review podcasts, the latest edition of The Talking Picture TV podcast is out now as well, featuring amongst other items, my review of Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb starring the gorgeous Valerie Leon. Again, you find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or its webpage https://www.attaboyclarence.com/the-talking-pictures-tv-podcast

Rocky Horror fans

Silver Screen Singalongs

I felt very relieved a couple of weeks ago after our Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again singalong event at Bolton Little Theatre came to a successful close. For some reason my normal pre-show nerves were greater than usual, even though this had been our twelfth singalong event. But the anticipation and knowing that a whole audience of people have been looking forward to this night did bring a weight of responsibility on myself as the projectionist and co-organiser, and my friends who generously donated their Saturday night to help. Thanks to Adam Manning for his sterling work as the MC in getting the evening started with plenty of cheers and laughter, Jeff Lunt for making sure the lighting and the auditorium are ideally set up, Mark Pillar for House Managing and David Smart for his encouragement, co-organising the night and operating the bar with his wife Susan.

   Every one of these events has had special memories for me. For this last one, it was the audience’s reactions every time Cher appeared, especially her set piece number “Fernando”. There is a special shared joy in those spontaneous moments when a cinema audience reacts as one to a film, and it is probably that more than anything that has encouraged me to continue running Bolton Little Theatre’s big screen nights.

   Favourite memories from the control box include: The big reaction and applause to “Does Your Mother Know” in Mamma Mia! Then the end of that movie, when Meryl Streep looked into the camera and asked, “Do you want more?”, the dancing audience answered back “Yes!” and for a moment the movie felt thrillingly live and happy. The teenagers who got up to the front and danced for the crowd during the end titles of Grease. During our first showing of Frozen, there’s a moment when Prince Hans asks Anna to marry him and a chorus of little girls’ voices said “Yes”, even though they must already have known he was a wrong’un.

   Probably our biggest gamble was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Partly because our copy did not actually have the onscreen Singalong lyrics and partly because out of all the movies we had shown, this one came with a substantial reputation and a whole history of audience interaction. Plus, I was not sure what the audience mix would be. I think it was my worry which led to me arriving on the night feeling quite ill from a virus. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees who arrived in costume, I think we had at least one of every character, including two strapping Frank-N-Furters in basques and suspenders, as you can see in the photograph above. As the MC, Ryan Smart-Stanton was inspired that night with some of his improvisations. Then the film was underway, and everyone seemed to be on the same party vibe. “The Time Warp” maybe its most famous number, but my special memories of that screening were the audience rocking out to “Wild and Untamed Thing” and the emotional roar of cheers and applause after Frank-N-Furter’s torch song “I’m Going Home”.

   A good Singalong movie is a very specific prescription. It is not enough to be a great musical, it needs to have enough songs in it that people recognise, plus it should be a fairly upbeat. That leaves a fairly small selection to choose from. Hairspray has the right mood for example, but its songs do not have much of a life beyond the movie. Walking on Sunshine is filled with well-known pop songs, but it is so ghastly in virtually every other respect that would hesitate to programme it.

But we are always open to new ideas. For example, the screenings of the Bolton-set film versions of Bill Naughton’s comedies Spring and Port Wine, and The Family Way, complete with on-stage introductions and an exhibition, courtesy of Live from Worktown, were well received and it was great to feel a whole auditorium reacting to those 1960’s movies. It is always gratifying to welcome people to our theatre who have never been before too. So now we are getting ready for The Greatest Showman, a musical tailor-made for watching in company and so popular we are holding two sold-out showings on 2nd November. I will no doubt be nervous again, but fingers-crossed by the end of the day I will have some new fond memories.

This article first appeared in the September 2019 edition of Bolton Little Theatre’s newsletter The Prompter.

Poster art of Alistair Sim and David Prowse

Green for Frankenstein and other news

Plenty of activity this month. First up, the latest episode of The Official Talking Pictures TV Podcast is out and amongst it marvellous cotirie of reviewers, you’ll hear me outlining the merits of two very different comedy thrillers – Green for Danger and The Horror of Frankenstein. Which one most alarmed the British censor? You might be surprised. Compliments to Adam Roche for another excellent installment.

Still on podcasting, BERGcast the series all about Quatermass, has now reached Hammer’s first adaptation The Quatermass Xperiment, and it’s an entertaining hour looking at the pros and cons of the 1955 movie. As usual it also has background information I have never heard before. Personally I have disagree over Brian Donlevy though. Often criticised as hopelessly miscast, for me I like his driven, almost monstrous version of the scientist. It may have come about more be accident than intention, but Donlevy’s Quatermass as tough private eye portrayal is memorable and distinctive compared to many other academics of Fifties SF. This is a movie where the hero is actually adding to danger as much as combating it, and for me that is part of its strength.

book cover

Rik Hoskin has two exciting projects to talk about. Out now is an audio drama adaptation of his bestselling White Sands graphic novel set in Brandon Sanderson’s shared Cosmere universe. You can listen to the trailer and buy it from Graphic Audio right now. I have not heard it yet but intend to obtain it soon. Coming in November is a follow-up to his excellent comic series Red Rising: Sons of Ares. A prequel to the bestselling space opera adventure series Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Wrath carries on the early career of terrorist/freedom fighter Fitchner and his fight against the tyranical caste-based empire which rules the Solar System in the future. I loved the first six issue run and I’m looking forward to more of Rik’s storytelling and Eli Powell’s intricate but fluid art. Follow the link to read an interview at Bleeding Cool.

Ultimate Finality posters

Finally Bolton Little Theatre are presenting A Bunch of Amateurs between 16th and 21st September. As well as assembling the sound effects and music, I’m helping with the marketing. Part of that is creating a quick video advert and I had the idea of coming up with some fake posters for faded US star Jefferson Steel’s recent movies, which you can see above. It should be an excellent comedy and having seen rehearsals I can recommend it.