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Comedian Paggy Gacheva is performing at Barons Court Theatre this week with their show ‘Stimmicanto’: a celebration of autistic joy. As a master of puns, the title is rather appropriately a play on words. ‘Stimmi’ is a reference to the process of stimming which helps autistic people manage their emotions and ‘encanto’ is the Spanish word for charm. Neurodivergent representation is so important in the arts and in this almost one-person show, the comedian provides an amusing insight into what it means to be autistic, helping to inform audiences and reduce stigma through the art of comedy.
Anecdotes of autism
The fast-paced show is very much a journey into Paggy’s mind and numerous concepts and delivery styles are covered over the course of 60 minutes. Whilst there is a defined script, the material is driven by elements of audience interaction, as the performer shares topics and situations throughout life that puzzle them.
A show of segments
Given the sheer number of themes and insights covered, it is a lot to take in within the short duration. It is a show of distinct parts and whilst there are links, the connectivity of the segments could do with some refinement. Initially it comes across as disjointed, but the audience quickly learns that this is actually reflective of the neurological disorder itself, highlighting how the comedian finds everyday transitions difficult. Whilst I learnt so much about Paggy’s own experiences of autism through the comedy, as an audience member I needed a little more structure to truly appreciate the overall sense of direction and wider points they were trying to make.
I really enjoyed the performer’s comedy style, but felt that the scripted material didn’t allow enough room for their naturally funny side to shine through. My favourite moments were when we saw glimpses of Paggy’s unscripted and unfiltered thoughts, including little quips and jibes towards the audience. Stimmicanto could benefit from more improvisation and unapologetic moments, which feel less rehearsed and more organic.
A natural with words
Paggy is a natural wordsmith, reeling off several puns throughout the set. Their talents with words extends to a presentation section, where the comedian displays street sign memes from their travels across the UK. This was a really fun way to engage the audience, adding a visual element to the performance. My only comment would be that the projection was a little difficult to see from the back of the theatre, so I missed a couple of the cues. Greater visibility of the slide deck would make this sequence accessible to everyone in attendance.
Comedy as an educational tool
The personification of the brain segment is insightful, educating audiences on living with autism. It is a visual concept that is easy to grasp, with Paggy’s brain acting as a character that the comedian regularly interacts with. Implied by an off-stage voice over, the brain figure ‘packages up’ daily thoughts to send to the performer. The presentation of this section could be a little slicker, with the lighting effects and the overall timing feeling a touch out of sync, but in general it adds significant value to the set.
Importance of representation within comedy
I left the theatre with a better understanding of what it means to be autistic, thanks to the performer’s wit and engaging anecdotes. If that’s not proof of the impact of Paggy’s comedy, I don’t know what is. Whilst the overall performance feels like it could benefit from more cohesion, Stimmicanto is an enjoyable watch. Performances run until Sunday 4th February at Barons Court Theatre, before the comedian heads to the Brighton Fringe. Last minute tickets are available via the theatre’s website.
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Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Stimmicanto was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.