In their show, Smalltown Boy: The Remix, Harry Wright tells stories about their experience with the inherent pedantry that comes with being autistic. I, myself, am also an autistic pedant. So, even though this is a review of a work-in-progress, I’d like to point out the following: National Coming Out Day is on October 11th rather than “last Thursday”, and former A Question of Sport host Sue Barker is still with us.
Due to COVID, Smalltown Boy has been a fair few years in the making, referencing prior critiques of the show along the way. Described as “an autistic’s soundtrack to self discovery and authenticity”, don’t expect to hear any Jimmy Somerville siren wails – instead, be prepared to fume about how Craig David (Harry’s first celebrity crush) still hasn’t denied that he’s still a Tory. Despite being five years younger than Harry, I still consider myself a child of the 00s so, referentially, this hour hit the spot.
Even though they claim they don’t perfectly fit into both communities, especially with their self-branding as a Sports Gay, many of Harry’s experiences are still part and parcel of the intersectional autistic and queer experience. Even though this could parlay into terrific commentary, for example their wish to fight the boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux over the thought that his autism-awareness activism doesn’t excuse his average in-ring skills, Harry’s jokes often proved more relatable than funny to my also-autiqueer self.
However, the magic really happens when discussing topics either tangentially related to their identity, or outside of it altogether. Highlights include recounting their school reunion, where a Hall of Fame was set up for notable students (with the most famous person there earning their stripes due to appearing on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents), and an argument on why going to an old-school gay sauna once a week can save you precious pennies.
I did start to feel slightly sour towards the end, when Harry spoke about why they’ve declined to get a second booster shot (because the doctors are hot, therefore vaccines can turn you either gay or straight depending on who’s administering it). Maybe I’m too just for that joke, but it felt like it threatened to cross the line into “I’m too gay for the vaccine” panic. Obviously, it was said in much better faith than what Woody Harrelson joked about on SNL a day later, but I still felt my teeth starting to grit over it.
Harry might not be re-inventing the autiqueer wheel, but at least, in true autistic fashion, they’re deconstructing how and why the wheel should roll. That, alone, still makes for a comedic delight.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.
This review was written by a participant of the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme in partnership with Theatre Weekly. For more information about the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme, and all of our 2023 participants, please visit: https://vaultfestival.com/new-critics-programme/