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Interview: From art installation to stage, Richard Butchins on play inspired by friend with Asperger's

Writer and filmmaker Richard Butchins talks about his play 213 Things About Me at the Battersea Arts Centre which was inspired by Rose, his long-time friend, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in her 30s.

Richard ButchinsRose committed suicide the same year she was diagnosed.

“We were having a conversation on Skype and I asked her to write a list. It was that standard thing where you ask someone to say five good things about themselves. I thought it might be a useful focus for her.

"When I spoke to her later in the week she said: 'I did that list. I’ve got 213 things.' What she had to say was touching, funny, moving and sad.”

Your background is photography and documentaries and 213 Things About Me started life as a video installation, what inspired you to turn it into a play?

I always thought that she (Rose) had a lot of interesting, funny and insightful things to say about her condition - discovering I was on the spectrum made it inevitable I would have to write something, and given her lovely songs - a play seemed the best route.

213 Things About Me play by Richard Butchins
Rosa Hoskins as Rose in 213 Things About Me

In telling the story as a play, what do you think it adds?

It adds a reality to her words and an instant response that you can't devise in any other way. 

The story is one that is very personal to you, in sharing it in this way, what are you hoping people take away from it?

That they reconsider their preconceptions about autism and consider people may be behaving in a particular way for actual reasons (especially given that an autistic woman was forcibly removed from the BFI cinema for laughing too loudly)   

Now that you’ve explored theatre-making, how does it compare as a medium and what role do you think it plays in the cultural landscape?

It is a completely different art-form - I can't say what role it plays in the cultural landscape as I'm not sure (nor is anyone else, I think) what that landscape looks like at the moment.  

And… will you be back with another play?

Perhaps .....(enigmatic smile...) 

213 Things About Me is at the Battersea Arts Centre from 9-12 May and is performed by Rosa Hoskins.


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