Let's start the conversation about embracing neurodiversity

  • Arts
  • Sunday, 20 Jan 2019

The young cast of 'In/Out' which features a mix of performers with theatre and dance backgrounds. They will carry a devised physical theatre story about longing and acceptance. Photo: Coebar Abel

Last year, theatre director Ho Lee Ching applied to join a performing arts school in France. To her dismay, she was not accepted. It turned out that while the school was satisfied with her qualifications, they had to reject her because she had Tourette syndrome.

Ho was disappointed but keen to move on. The experience got her thinking about exclusion and how people are often rejected because of something they have no control over.

“I went on Tourette’s support groups and spoke about my experiences. And then I came across the term ‘neurodiversity’, which Tourette’s is part of. I ended up reading a lot about this. I decided to do a show about it,” says Ho, 28, a resident actor and academy facilitator at KLPac.

She joined The Actors Studio's Theatre For Young People programme in 2012.

Her last show OCD - exactly one year ago - explored the experiences of those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Ho’s new theatre show In/Out, which plays at KLPac from Jan 24 to 27, addresses two issues that are close to her: inclusivity and neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity states there is a diversity in the way our minds work with dyslexia, autism, attention deficit disorder and Tourette’s being alternative ways of the brain functioning.

“We’re not disabled. We just function differently. What you will see on stage will be what it feels like to be excluded from society,” she adds.

In/Out is the story of a girl, played by Claudia Low, who experiences the world in a unique way. She cannot stand loud noises, she has a hard time focusing and she collects maps and fans.

No one can understand why she does the things she does.

“The performing arts has always been a form of expression used to educate people about their current conditions, and how they can function better as a society,” says Low, 31.

“Coming into this production, I quickly realised that mental health isn’t always considered in how society normally functions. And because I was ignorant, I was in turn, insensitive too. I hope we can start the same dialogue with the people who come to watch us, and that the experience might shift a perspective. If we aren’t all born equal, how can we be expected to function as such? We can all be more considerate, inclusive and just on a whole, better,” she adds.

In this show, director Ho says the performers come from theatre and dance backgrounds.

The production is supported by Coebar Abel as music director, Silver Yee as choreographer and musician Ian Francis Khoo.

Low takes on the lead role in the In/Out theatre show. Photo: KLPac

The nature of the show, reveals Ho, is very physical and movement-based.

“I’m not a dancer, but I’m very interested in the dance world. I’m interested in how they move, why they move and aesthetically how they make everything interesting. So I thought, let’s do something different, let me do something where I work with dancers,” elaborates Ho.

The story behind In/Out was devised with Ho and her cast, which includes actors Low, Afham Zainal, Nabilah Hamid and Riena Aisya, Chloe Tan and Sharm Noh (both performers with circus show Psycusix), dancer SueKi Yee, former national gymnast Joey Cheong and Zhafir Muzani, a KLPac resident dancer.

“As a dancer, I’m interested in exploring different things in theatre. This play is a devised piece and that made me very curious to see how it would all come together,” says Yee, 24, a member of the ASK Dance Company.

Each performance of In/Out will be followed by a Q&A session. The show on Jan 26 has also been designated as a “relaxed performance”.

In/Out is a show that welcomes all. You will like it if you love dance or theatre. Neurodiversity may feel like a heavy topic. But you shouldn’t be intimidated by it. It’s easy to relate to it. And maybe some empathy is all we need,” says Yee.

In/Out is showing at Pentas 2, KLPac, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah in KL from Jan 24 to 27. Tickets start from RM50. Visit www.klpac.org or call 03-4047 9000.

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