Meet Mark, a determined and misunderstood young lad on the Autistic Spectrum who, believing that a party animal is a real creature, goes hunting for one. This would lead him off onto a wild journey indeed… A funny, uplifting and poignant story, and a moment of hope in these murky times.
The Party Animal is a radio play written by Madeleine Levy and performed by seven actors on the Autistic Spectrum. The project is in partnership with Open Theatre and Alternative Voices, and is supported by Switch Radio and Arts Council England. The team worked alongside playwright Stephanie Dale, BBC’s Peter Leslie Wilde and Andy Partington, and composer Maria Haik Escudero.
Today we had the chance to catch up with three actors from Madeleine Levy’s new radio play: Alex Manners, Matt Recardo and Nicky Priest. We also chatted to Madeleine Levy (Alternative Voices) and Grace Smith (Open Theatre), ahead of the premier of The Party Animal on Switch Radio on Monday 6 April at 7pm.
What is your role in The Party Animal?
Alex: I play the main character called Mark. I was thrilled to play this character because I could relate to a lot of the things that Mark was thinking and feeling.
Nicky: I play four different characters! I’m just thankful that this is a radio play and not a theatrical one, just think of all the frequent costume changes I’d have to do… Anyway enough of my imagination running away! The four characters I play are Vince (Mark’s classmate), a shopkeeper, a policeman, and a bus driver.
I’d have to say Vince is my favourite character to play, as he is the one who causes the ripple effect for Mark’s quest of finding a ‘party animal’. Plus, I’ve always liked the name Vince, it sounds cool, well, I think so anyway…
Madeleine: I have played many roles during the making of The Party Animal. As Artistic Director of Alternative Voices I wrote the script, applied for the funding, cast the actors, and also I play the narrator in the radio play. It has certainly kept me busy!
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the process was writing the script. I have previously written scripts for theatrical settings before, but never for radio. I found that I had to adapt the way I imagined the world that I was creating; imagining it through sound rather than sight. You have to set the location and time of day through soundscapes and sound effects. It made me notice just how much sound we consume on a daily basis!
Grace: I am Madeleine’s Creative Enabler. This has involved me working alongside Madeleine with her funding application, supporting with the planning and delivery of the project, partnering with Madeleine through the entire process; making creative decisions, problem solving, and managing the budget. I have worked with Madeleine on previous projects, and thoroughly enjoy working with her. We have both learned so much from each other, and I am very excited to see what’s to come with Madeleine’s work, through her company Alternative Voices.
Matt: I play four different characters. Mark’s Father (who has a Birmingham accent), a busker (who has a Scottish accent), Danny (who has a Scottish accent), and a policeman (who has a Scottish accent). Mark’s father was easy enough, but playing three different characters with the same accent and making them sound distinctive was a challenge. I also announced the credits at the end (in my own accent)!
What was it like working with the creative team?
Nicky: I worked alongside other young performers on the Autistic Spectrum, and that to me is inspirational because these are young people who are looking to break the glass ceiling (metaphorically of course!), and prove that people with learning disabilities can create great work within the performing industry.
Alex: The whole cast is neurodiverse, and it really does highlight the amount of talent that people with Autism and other neurodiverse conditions have. I have to say that Matt Recardo was amazing at Accents!
Matt: Well, Madeleine not only performed in this play, but wrote it as well. Alex is an award winning public speaker for Autism Awareness, radio presenter and author. Nicky is an accomplished stand up comedian, and actor. Lukan regularly posts comedy videos online that he wrote and acted in. Alice is only 16 years of age and has just done her first professional acting role. And I have been a professional actor for 13 years. All of us are on the Autistic Spectrum, but do not let it hold us back.
Madeleine: The whole team are fantastic. I was mentored by industry professionals who have worked in this field for many years. But I couldn’t have done it without the actors; without them The Party Animal would still just be a script. They have brought it to life and have allowed it to be shared with the world.
Also, Grace, my Creative Enabler also played a key part in making this happen. Together we seem to be able to create things that neither of us could have imagined if we hadn’t started working together.
Grace Smith and Madeleine Levy
How does this project raise awareness to people about what Young People with Learning Disabilities can offer the arts and society?
Matt: We are a cast made up entirely of actors on the Autistic Spectrum. We have proven that we are capable of being in a legitimate professional production as indeed we are capable of many things, if just given the opportunity.
Grace: Whilst raising awareness about what life can be like with Autism, The Party Animal also advocates for actors with Autism. We absolutely believe in the ability of Young People with Learning Disabilities to contribute to the creative sector and change it for the better. We hope to continue supporting Madeleine, and her company, Alternative Voices, through her journey as an artist and as a leader.
Madeleine: My hope it that this play is a moment of hope in this murky time. In times of uncertainty and struggle, you can always rise above your challenges, and that’s what the character in the play does. I believe that The Party Animal will give us all some hope that we can face the challenges in our current environment.
Nicky: It raises awareness of what Young People with Learning Disabilities can offer to the arts and society, by showing off exactly what it is, a piece of art created by Young People with Learning Disabilities, with the play showcasing what life can be like for a young person a learning condition. It also shatters the myth that we cannot contribute to society because… NEWSFLASH!!! We can do just that!
Alex: The play will act as an inspirational piece to showcase the talents of neurodiverse individuals, and those like myself who have Asperger’s and Autism. It will show others that we are valuable members of a team, and that we can achieve things you may not have thought possible. Hopefully many more people like us will be given opportunities as a result of the radio play.
Why should people tune in to listen on Monday 6 April at 7pm?
Madeleine: It will be the first time that Switch Radio has ever aired a radio play with entirely neurodiverse actors, which is incredibly exciting!
Alex: If you know anyone with Autism, have Autism yourself, or you want to learn more about Autism, then this play will certainly inspire and educate you. It shows what Autism can be like for an individual and a family, and it also showcases different traits and elements surrounding Autism. Above all, the play is a really interesting story.
Matt: I think mainly because not enough Autistic people are listened to when it comes to talking about Autism. Information is out there, but often from people who do not have the condition themselves. This is not to take away any credibility from what they say, but hearing the viewpoint of someone who actually lives with the condition is vitally important in my opinion.
Grace: The Party Animal is first and foremost a high-quality piece of entertainment that will take you on a journey of varying emotions, but it is also much more than that. At Open Theatre, we not only want listeners to enjoy the play, but we want to break down barriers and encourage people to be more welcoming of difference.
Nicky: People should tune in to listen to The Party Animal because it is different to what your conventional radio plays offer. It is written and performed by Young People with Learning Disabilities, and it tells a unique about what it can be like to live the life of someone on the Autistic Spectrum.
Tune in on Switch Radio (107.5 FM) on Monday 6 April at 7pm to hear the premiere of The Party Animal.
This is one not to be missed!
Script Writer: Madeleine Levy
Cast: Alex Manners, Alice Fry, Lukan Smith, Nicky Priest,
Matt Recardo, Madeleine Levy and Samantha Kent
Script Mentor: Stephanie Dale
Creative Enabler: Grace Smith
Audio Director: Peter Leslie Wilde
Sound Engineer: Andy Partington
Composer: Maria Haik Escudero
Photographer: John Stokes
Marketing: Bethan Ball