Writer: Cian Binchy and Access All Areas
Director: Nick Llewellyn
Reviewer: Paul Couch
Cian Binchy is a bit of a provocateur. His current show, The Misfit Analysis, is an examination of the world through his eyes as a young, autistic man, and he pulls no punches in making the audience uncomfortable if that’s what it takes to make us face up to our prejudices about the condition.
He’s what’s known as “high functioning” which means that his intellect and an acerbic wit are intact, even if his responses and delivery occasionally falter. His on-stage persona is childlike, without being childish, a mercurial and naughty man-child with a wicked sense of humour and a clear love of expletives.
He arrives on stage in a wheelchair clutching items from key moments in his life. This, he later explains, is to illustrate the ignorance with which other people regard his autism. On a trip to Dublin, he asked an airport worker if they could direct him to the boarding gate as the busy hub was confusing for him. The worker arrived shortly after with a wheelchair because Binchy was clearly disabled. The fact that he’s a strapping six-footer with two perfectly functioning legs was irrelevant; he’s disabled and disabled people belong in wheelchairs is the airport policy, otherwise there’s no assistance for them (unless they happen to be deaf).
The plant pot he clutches is a reminder of when Binchy was dispatched to do some light remedial gardening by a well-meaning social worker. He’s not a gardener, he’s an actor, poet and intellectual. A filmed segment has him working in a charity shop as a volunteer after being told it would lead to a paid position, which never appeared.
Binchy’s performance – aided by varied audio-visual presentations – is captivating, eclective and designed to inflict discomfort where necessary. It’s a mirror for any of us who have ever had an unkind thought about people with learning disabilities can look into and immediately feel pangs of regret. He’s sardonic and sarcastic, angry and yet vulnerable. He treats his autism with irreverence, or is that reserved for the people who look at him and see something less than “normal”?
He’s joined on stage by Lesley Ewan, who serves as a “creative enabler”, but more importantly as his straight-man. However, Ewen is far more than a patsy for Binchy, having served as dramaturg at the inception of The Misfit Analysis. She hands out props to members of the audience and reacts with hilarious long-suffering deadpan to some of the more outrageous requests.
It’s not a flawless show and there are times when we feel Binchy needs reining in as his natural exuberance gets the better of clarity, and some of the more off-the-wall concepts leap explosively from one to the other without giving the non-autistic – or “neuro-typical” – brain to rationalise them. However, The Misfit Analysis is a fearless, endearing and spectacularly illuminating work that deserves to be seen.
Reviewed on 2 March 2017, then tour continues | Image: Idil Sukan
Related article: Cian Binchy Talks autism in the arts