What I (Don’t) Know About Autism: Matthew Ralli and Paula Mc Glinchy
What I (Don’t) Know About Autism, a play written by Jody O’Neill, will soon hit the stage. The play, directed by Dónal Gallagher, will contain a cast of autistic and neurotypical actors. Using a host of characters and storylines, the play aims to celebrate autistic identity and educate neurotypical audiences. In the lead up to the play’s release, we’ll be releasing interviews with the cast and crew. Next we have Paula McGlinchy and Matthew Ralli!
What role do you play in What I (Don’t) Know About Autism?
Paula: I play multiple roles.
Matthew: Like all the cast, I play a narrator at times and a number of different roles/characters.
Is the character like you or different? How so?
Paula: Not that I’m aware of. Some of my characters are self absorbed and have very archaic views of autism. And then there are others who I think I would relate more to.
Matthew: I can relate to a lot of the parts I play in the show. Some are father figures and I am a parent
so understand the pressures and responsibility of parenthood. Others are quite a lot of fun
and I enjoy having the craic!
What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
Paula: We sing a little during the show. Always a challenge for me! But it’s fun because we get to
Matthew: There are a lot of different scenes, there are songs, dancing choreography, and moments
when we address the audience directly. So learning all of these stages of the play and
making each as clear and enjoyable for the audience as possible is a challenge. Also, I feel it
is an important piece of social theatre and I am aware of my responsibility as an artist to
serve it to the best of my ability.
What made you go into theatre? When did you first perform?
Paula: Dance was my first love. I was very shy,so acting was out, but I could dance. However, it was
when I was training to become a speech therapist, that I performed in my first play, part of
the course. Jean Genet, The Maids. I fell in love all over again!
Matthew: I began training as an actor when I was thirty, so later in life than most performers. There
was no defining moment when I knew I wanted to work in theatre, it was more of a gradual
instinctive shift in my life – I followed a path that seemed illogical, but somehow inevitable.
What’s your favourite play?
Paula: That’s an impossibly difficult question. Okay, ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf’ by Edward
Elbee. Love that play!
Matthew: I have so many, but I am going to say my favourite play is A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
because it was the first one I studied in detail and opened the door for me into the world of
plays and theatre.
What is your experience with autism?
Paula: I don’t have much experience with Autism. This has been an incredible learning curve for
me. Jody has written a very rich script full of information and scenes that explore what it is
to be autistic. I am discovering new things all the time. I feel very lucky to be part of this
very important project.
Matthew: I was in a relationship with a woman who has a young autistic son. I developed a very strong
friendship with him and though we are not in touch anymore, I still think of him often and
hope he is enjoying life.
Have you taken part in many relaxed performances? How do you feel they differ from
Paula: Yes I have worked on tour with Shakespeare designed for students in a relaxed way (to a
point.) We would break for scenes and talk directly to the students, they would talk back,
share their thoughts, join us on stage. However, this play goes much further. I think it’s wonderful.
The audience have the freedom to go in and out of the auditorium as needed
and to genuinely relax when watching the play. There will be ear defenders available , and
house lights in the auditorium will be on or dimed, but won’t be fully out as usual. I think it’s
the first relaxed performed at the Abbey.
Matthew: Never. I have no idea what to expect. But I’m excited to experience it as a performer!
Do you have a favourite moment in the play? (without spoiling too much!)
Paula: I have lots of favourite moments, The last verse of the History of Autism in song , I think it’s
a magic moment. I wont say anymore.
Matthew: We are still in rehearsals, so I haven’t worked on all of the material in depth, but I feel the
final scene in the play will be rewarding to perform. I think it is quite poignant.
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