INTERVIEW: Cait O’Sullivan – Living with a Dark Lord


Tell us about something great you’ve read/watched/listed to recently…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I saw it in a book shop and read the first page, I thought it was really boring and put it back. When I was on holiday I downloaded it onto my kindle and couldn’t put it down, it was really addictive but not in a thriller way. It impressed me because it wasn’t plot heavy, the person, who was a woman was very complex and I was very happy that there was a woman who wasn’t dumbed down or sexualised. I found it a very good story and a good character.

Living with a Dark Lord Play

Living with a Dark Lord is a play written by Cait O’Sullivan, with input by sisters Aisling and Maeve and performed by the sister trio. Living with a Dark Lord is a play about growing up with a brother with autism, as they are approaching Shaun’s 30th birthday the O’Sullivan sisters spend time reflecting on the good times and the bad.

When asked about the reasons for writing the play Cait told us: “I always knew I would write something about Shaun, I had tried prose but found it really hard to do, Shaun is a living human, what would the ending be?” A residency was then commissioned by Blue Elephant Theatre to create the play and have a rehearsed reading, fast forward and here we are, Living with a Dark Lord is heading to London and the Edinburgh Fringe.

Although initially disinterested in a play being written about him and wishing to play blind chess rather than discuss the play Shaun does “see it as a good side of me that I celebrate him and I do it for his own good, putting things about Shaun on Facebook made people see him in a new light.” I have faith that the O’Sullivan sisters have translated this onto a stage, giving people an understanding to override the fear surrounding people with autism.

Living with a Dark Lord gives insight into life with autism and how that may change the  experience of childhood for others in the family:

“There are things we used to do like wear our school uniforms in the holidays which I just thought was normal and didn’t question it. Shaun didn’t speak apart from to us so in a shop situation he would whisper in my ear then I would speak it or to relatives, I would be translator. To me that was just normal. I forgot that was odd.”

I do wonder whether these life experiences change our outlook and tolerance of the people we come across in life. Living with a Dark Lord provides the opportunity for audience members to have a better insight into living with autism and hopefully broaden people’s minds to the different family lives we all lead. There is something very unique about being given the privilege to have such an intimate exploration of one family’s life.

I sincerely hope that Living with a Dark Lord will change people’s attitudes towards interacting with people with autism, Cait told us: “Shaun is the least awkward person to talk to because he is not awkward. Conversation is so structured.”

Writing a biographical play poses it’s challenges in terms of where to end when everyone you are talking about is still getting on with their lives however Cait reported:

“I am happy with the way it summarises things, it doesn’t end on a resolved note, it ends open because that’s the situation we’re in. I think I will still write something about Shaun later. I don’t feel like I’ve put it to rest.”

The Role of Arts in Health Representation

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder, a life long condition however our versions of what this means is likely influenced by it’s representation in popular culture. A common response for the sisters when someone finds out their brother has autism is: “so he’s like Rain Man” however this appears to be more the fault of a poor range of representation of people with autism. When asked if she had ever seen a good representation of autism in popular culture Cait shared that she prefers Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time however there will always be some flaws in these things. As the diagnosis suggests autism is a spectrum disorder therefore if you have met one person with autism you have met one person with autism. Equally each family members experience of living with someone with autism is different which makes Living with a Dark Lord such a brilliant idea, each sibling has a different experience and I am sure this will make for a relatable play for others in their situation.

You can catch Living with the Dark Lord at Drayton Arms Theatre in London on 3rd and 4th August at 7pm, tickets available here or at the Edinburgh Fringe from 13th – 18th August 7:30pm at Paradise The Vault, tickets available here.

If you are feeling nice and generous do support the O’Sullivan sisters with reaching their target to get this important play on the stage via their Go Fund Me page here.

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