Drag star Baby Belle starts ‘Young, Dumb and Full of Autism’ by asking the audience to imagine what a non-binary person looks like. Then what an autistic person looks like. And then encourages feigned shock when they then ask them to imagine what the two would look like combined. This self-awareness of the harm categories and binaries can cause is at the root of Belle’s show, allowing audience expectations and preconceptions to rise up before they glamorously bring them crashing down.
Belle’s musical show (in which they act as performer, director, and technician all at once) is small scale, glitzy, and deeply personal. Many of the songs included were written by Belle when they were a child, albeit modified slightly to account for how their perspectives have changed. Not all of the songs deal head on with gender identity and queerness however. Indeed the most wonderful musical number is about their love of cats. Every track however feels like an extra, privileged insight into their identity.
Able to adopt a serious tone without dragging the show down into tragedy or gloom, Belle allows their full personality to shine through in every word, action, and lyric. Hearing about how they have calibrated their autism and gender identity into how they previously saw themselves is a fascinating listen, made all the more entertaining by Belle’s bubbly delivery. Belle directly addresses stigmas surrounding autistic people and incorporates these into her self-reflective discussions. They are unafraid to be themselves, and actively encourage the audience to share in this freedom. While not depressive, the performance is moving, with a final act proving to be the most eye-catching and stirring moment of the show.
‘Young, Dumb and Full of Autism’ works because it also appeals to anybody who is not any of these things. It is a show by a non-binary autistic person, but really it is for anybody who has ever had any doubt about who they are and how they can understand themselves as part of the world around them. As a preacher of mutual understanding and empathy, Belle has an absolute ball, and the festival circuit feels all the more complete with stars like them to light up the lives of those around them.
‘Young, Dumb and Full of Autism’ runs until Sat Aug 19 2023 at Greenside @Infirmary Street at 15:10