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Mine (Or Unapologetically Austistic)

Mine (or Unapologetically Autistic)

Daniel Toney

Directed by Zailyn Cuevas

Bridge House Theatre

Star rating 4

It’s Autism Awareness Week and Daniel Toney’s one man, 60 minute play certainly raised mine. Diagnosed with autism at an early age, he is a skilled and charismatic actor whose play shares a great deal of information with the audience. It’s entertainment (funny in places) seasoned with a large pinch of documentary but none the worse for that.

As the audience finds seats in the Bridge House’s intimate space, Toney is sitting solemnly at a table with a glass of beer and there’s a lot of ambient pub-style noise. He starts – chatty and naturalistic – by explaining how difficult that noise makes communication for a neuro-divergent person because his brain is hypersensitive. Aircraft and train noise can be very frightening for an autistic child and there’s a rueful recollection of having to be taken, terrified, out of an ABBA tribute concert. Toney, who trained at East 15, captures childhood plausibly with good physicality.

I’m sure a lot of this is autobiographical but I took it at face value as fictional drama, trying to separate the actor from the character he’s portraying. I liked the account of trying, aged 17, to have a  relationship with a girl (cue for a bit of Mozart’s clarinet concerto) when you have no idea what you’re supposed to say. And I laughed aloud at the G&S society at university being seen as the place where all the rejects go, including the protagonist of this play.

There are some strong messages. In general, hard as they try, parents and teachers just “don’t get it” or they didn’t in the early 2000s when Toney was a child. Laisez-faire isn’t the answer. A child with an autism diagnosis needs as much discipline as any other child. And it’s not being understood which leads to frustration, anger and “melt-downs”. What is needed is empathy. And we all need to be more curious about autism.

Another interesting point is that books are written about autism in children and guidance offered but there’s very little on offer for autistic adults. Toney is funny, moreover, about job interviews and the predictable reactions of interviewers to his declaration of autism. And however many times you’ve read, or seen, the The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, don’t assume that all autistic people are brilliant at maths. Toney’s character is hopeless at it.

This is a very thoughtful, sensitive piece of drama and I hope it helps to change attitudes.


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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