Play wrestles the Autistic Shadow

Actor Steve Hannam. (s)

Actor Steve Hannam. (s)

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Here is the magic of stories: they can break past armies of stereotypes - statues built like a wall by society - dividing people into "them" and "us".

Many offer exclusive access into the lives of strangers, revealing the intricate webs of flaws, passions and idiosyncrasies making them utterly unique.

That's the beauty of Living with Luke, a play set in a wrestling ring and based on the real-life blogs of Steve Hannam, AKA Danson Thunderbolt, documenting his feelings as a father to an autistic son.

Yes, Luke has autism. But it doesn't define him. He is more than his condition.

It's something writer and director Paul T. Davies knew he had to capture.

"Autism," he said, "is unique to each person so there wasn't a general rule on what we had to do. Luke doesn't represent all autistic people. He's an individual."

Steve, who plays himself, debunked the myth that all autistic children have a special gift.

"It should be celebrated if they do but we don't refer to any in the play," he said. "Society is so focused on what they can do, they forget about what they can't. We need to examine how we can help them."

The actor struggles to communicate with his son, who expresses himself by repeating lines from TV shows. Removed from the context of TV, communication is a constant battle.

"Many dads who've seen the play have been in tears," Steve said. "They love their autistic child but society doesn't want men to express their feelings.

"We hope to show dads they're not alone and their feelings are natural."

"The play is a love letter from me to Luke," he added. "It celebrates love but also shows how difficult it is to be misunderstood."

The show will be staged tomorrow at 7-30pm at The Burnley Mechanics.

For tickets (£14) call 01282 664400.