People / theatre

Access needs and 80s pop

23 May 2024

This week we catch up with performance artist Vijay Patel ahead of his show, Brotherly, Otherly, Disorderly, arriving at Stanley Arts on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 June. The show, described as ‘an access rider in the form of a neurodivergent pop concert’ is performed by Vijay and his younger brother Jayden, and discusses how they navigate the barriers they both face as autistic people within a neurotypical world. There is also 80s pop!

Croydonist: What was your route to becoming a performance artist?

Vijay: My route into being a performance artist came through studying at the University of Chichester, graduating with a BA (hons) in Theatre in 2014. I had done some film and TV work before that, around 2009-2011, but my time in Chichester helped me discover my voice in new writing, autobiographical work.

I’ve since made and toured three shows: Pull the Trigger which was about being a second-gen migrant and queer artist working in my family newsagents. Sometimes I Leave which was about my experiences of autism, experiences of diagnosis and lack of support previously. Now touring Brotherly, Otherly, Disorderly which is my favourite show of the three because I get to perform it with my younger brother, share our experiences of autism and communicate our access needs in a way that suits us – a pop concert!

Croydonist: What can people expect when coming to see Brotherly, Otherly, Disorderly? 

Vijay: It’s going to be so much fun! The show is set up like a pop concert so if you are into 80s music, you’ll really have a great time. It’s designed for disabled/neurodivergent/autistic people who want to understand how to support themselves or people who want to support other people who have access needs. We share our personal experiences, perform songs and you can definitely expect some very cool video footage!

Croydonist: How has it been working on a show with your brother and how has this experience differed from your previous work?

Vijay: Previously I have always performed solo and the idea of performing with a family relative was initially daunting at first. This show has had its ups and downs – we were delayed in making it because of Covid, and there was a huge amount of work required for us to both understand our access needs and work in a comfortable environment with each other.

We have had to create good boundaries around when we talk about the show and when we just hang out as brothers, because the two can blend together quite easily – which gets complicated.

Croydonist: Does your brother have a theatrical background, or have you been his coach/mentor for the show?

Vijay: He is very new to theatre, aside from me taking him to a West End show once a long while ago. Being part of this show has been really rewarding for him, because it’s allowed him to find his artistic voice and I have been there for guidance. So I’ve kind of rushed him through a 3 year degree in theatre, but also allowed him space to grow at his own pace. He has made a lot of the artistic decisions in this show.

Croydonist: How would you explain the term ‘access rider’ for anybody reading this who may not have heard of it?

Vijay: An access rider is a document or method of communicating a persons’ access needs. This might be telling people you need to be able to take breaks every 30 minutess, or being able to use a lift in a venue. It is there so that everyone can do their best work. The show steps you through the process of how we made our access riders. So you don’t need to know what one is before seeing the show – you’ll be experts by the end of it!

Croydonist: Do you think theatre accommodates the needs of neurodivergent people?

Vijay: I think there are always people, organisations, and groups championing accessibility and making the experience and environment welcoming for neurodivergent people. But I always think we can do more – no one is fully accessible! We must listen and learn from each other all the time.

Croydonist: What are you particularly looking forward to about performing the show at Stanley Arts?

Vijay: Our family links are around Croydon so I’m really excited to perform the show on home turf. I’m also just really excited for new audiences to see it!

Thank you to Vijay for chatting with us.

Brotherly Otherly Disorderly is on at Stanley Arts on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 June 2024. Book your tickets here. Viyay is also running a workshop about creating an access rider on Friday 31 May. You can book your place here.

Find out more about Vijay’s work on their website or follow them on Instagram and X (Twitter).

Images courtesy of Vijay Patel

Posted by Julia

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