As some of you probably already know we interviewed Cait O’Sullivan about her new play Living with a Dark Lord a few weeks ago so obviously when the opportunity came around to see the play we had to take it and are so glad we did.
Living with a Dark Lord gives what can only be described as a privileged look into one family’s experience of living with autism. The play is written with perfect amounts of light and dark, giving an audience laughter and tears in their eyes. We are invited into Aisling’s living room as the sisters celebrate Shaun’s birthday (spawning anniversary) just as he would like, without him there.
Every family has their fair share of comically traumatic holiday tales however I feel a swat team arriving because your brother has abandoned his briefcase to view art to then discover it is filled with syringes and pipettes, then that he also has a knife in his sock for opening post may trump your story. One of those stories that is funny only in hindsight I suspect. However, learning a dance routine with knives as props from your big brother I imagine is all FUN!
Living with a Dark Lord gives a perspective quite often missing from the conversations around the difficulties of autism, the impact this has on siblings. Despite all the of the funny quirks we heard, autism can be a truly challenging condition quite often thrusting siblings into caring roles at a young age. We hear about the frustrations of their experience of childhood:
“I should be able to fight with my brother the way my friends fought with their brothers.”
Having a child with additional needs makes balancing parenting an undoubtedly challenging experience where someone will likely always feel hard done by. Every sibling deserves the right to be exceptionally angry at their annoying brother with only the usual consequences, it is something you would never think to take for granted as a child however Living with a Dark Lord sheds an all-important light on this.
Even though autism is a life-long condition there is hope that people find ways to cope in life and if that involves adopting a persona of a Dark Lord to forge a connection with the outside world that is great, especially if that includes a move towards hugs by offering people a hug from the hug menu such as the boomerang (somewhat of a dance demonstrated by Caitrin).
Living with a Dark Lord offers a new, much-needed depiction of what living with autism is like not only for the one with autism but also for a family as a whole. I am hopeful that more work like this will begin to breakdown stereotypes of autism given to us by the likes of Rain Man. If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person however what Living with a Dark Lord gives us is multiple experiences of being a sister and sometimes a carer of someone with autism. I am sure that each of these experiences will resonate with others in their situation.
The O’Sullivan sisters truly celebrate all that is their brother, Shaun and all that he has achieved in his life despite huge obstacles to overcome. All that have seen Living with a Dark Lord should feel grateful to this family for sharing their experiences in such a vulnerable way which undoubtedly educates many but will also give comfort to those sharing their experience.