Ria Lina. Mother, Phd level scientist. Producer of West End cabaret. Performer. Comedian. Singer and musician. In 2012, I personally added something else to her list of personal properties, all achieved before hear early 30’s. Ria is on the spectrum.
When I first explained to Ria whom and what she was, I had no idea she would translate it into performance. Silly me. She proceeded to use the medium of stand up comedy to reflect on her new found reality. But typically for these things, the motivation was due to a bad incident.
This year Ria’s joking about the difference between the term ‘special’ and the slang expression ‘Thpethial’ (said in a way that denoted low IQ and overall capacity) caused some controversy. Which caused Ria to think about why this had happened and to produce an entire show focused around the debate.
We are led into a world of neurodiversity, something she explains she’d had no idea about, through the entertaining mediums of jokes (wry comments you have to react to) and deft use of a ukulele. Ria is no ordinary woman commenting on a diagnosis. Having previewed her show in the basement of the National Autistic Society, she took it to a prime Edinburgh Fringe venue and did a well received three week run.
The concept and particularly the title have already attracted more criticism. Ria’s show is not offensive at all, rather she tries to make sense of her new found reality – which actually has always been the case. Who or what are you as someone of her accomplishments and ability when it turns out you personally are ‘special’?
One major point Ria makes is that in order to express the reality that we both share, you have to use phrases and terms reserved for people quite unlike us. But so far, that is as much as our society has given us. Ria’s show represents a start in bringing a whole new frame of reference to our society, and very funnily too. She is to be congratulated in her first attempt to express, as nicely as possible, what it is like to find the answer to a question you never knew your family and yourself faced? What are we? Why are we the way we are?
So don’t worry about the title. Because ultimately Ria challenges that even the ‘special needs’ amongst us should accept that they are not so totally sacred and precious that they cannot be targets for comedy. Far from it. All through our ‘special’ lives, we people living with autism are constantly facing ridicule and the attempts of others to express how our reality can be perceived. Ria tries to show that these taunts are also perfectly valid and universal perspectives.
We who are relatively disabled cannot bury our heads in the politically correct sand, and pretend the rest of the world is not out there. Ria’s show is ultimately an attempt to ‘get real’ about ourselves. I think it works too. I challenge anyone to find anything quite like it.
Review by Paul Wady
Ria is performing 'Thpethial' on 12 and 14 November at The Lounge at Leicester Square Theatre. You can buy tickets here: http://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873503418/events