Meet Fred: We're all the same underneath

"Do not stay away from us. You can actually help us," said Zhou Bohan, an autistic piano student.
Ti Gong

Fred, a 61-centimeter-tall puppet that needs three helpers to actually move normally, is ready to meet Shanghai audiences in late May, telling stories about his life as well as a special group in society.

“Meet Fred,” a puppet theater co-produced by Hijinx and Blind Summit from the UK, will be staged at the Huangpu Theater on May 21-27. The three performers this time are autistic.

Fred has no facial expression but loves to make friends.

He has a dirty mouth, yet he’s easily hurt. He fights prejudice every day. He just wants to be a regular guy, part of the real world, to get a job and meet a girl, but when threatened with losing his Puppetry Living Allowance, Fred’s life begins to spiral out of his control.

Fred is just like many of the people with special needs in the real world, fighting hard to be part of a “normal” society, yet always seen as an “outsider.” They are not giving up, yet yearning for more understanding from the ordinary.

Hijinx, a major producer of the theater, has devoted itself to helping the disadvantaged for years.

It is the only Welsh organization offering professional performance training to the special with obstacles in study and life. Hijinx provides courses like clown, mask, dance, physical theater and comics, with participation of special actors and actresses with special needs.

Some of those who have completed training have become professional performers touring the world, including the three performers for the theater in Shanghai.

Ma Dongshuang, a mother with an autistic son, expresses her appreciation for the artists’ efforts to reach ordinary people about those with special needs.

What concerns her most is whether her child will be understood, tolerated and accepted when leaving her shelter, as it is so hard for him to communicate.

“Our children are special,” Ma says. “They are like the flowers hard to bloom. Except for nurturing the flower itself, I hope that we can also do something to make a better environment for their growth.”

Zhou Bohan, a 20-year-old piano major at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, is also autistic.

Although it might not always work out, Zhou keeps trying making friends by fun methods, such as storytelling, ball games, singing, movies and painting. What amuses him most is to have a great number of people calling “Stand at attention” together.

He recalls some “naughty” things he did in middle school, which led him sitting at the back of the classroom, with two vacant rows separating him from all the other students.

“I understand why the teacher kept the other students away from me,” says Zhou. “But now I want to tell them: ‘Do not stay away from us. You can actually help us’.”

To help “Fred” around, is joining hands with the Shanghai Charity Foundation. For each ticket sold, a 10-yuan donation will be made to the special fund for the Shanghai Tongdarenben Children Care Development Center to help people with autism or Down syndrome.

"Meet Fred"

Date: May 21-27, 7:30pm
Tickets: 180-280 yuan
Tel: 400-185-8666
Venue: Shanghai Huangpu Theater
Address: 780 Beijing Rd E.
Check for more information.

Ti Gong
Ti Gong
Special Reports