Written and performed by Claudio Tamburri for the Toronto Fringe Festival, I Christopher is a semi-autobiographical account of one young man’s struggle to secure and maintain a job while being on the Autism spectrum. This heartfelt tale strives to address and challenge ableism in the workforce.
With empty boxes strewn about the stage, Tamburri tells describes his warehouse job as being a frustrating though necessary personal hell of backbreaking work and constant mocking from fellow co-workers. He is quickly let go by the supervisor for not working fast enough, despite Christopher’s emphatic reminders of his disability.
Several menial labour jobs come and go. Christopher must contend with expectations beyond his ability and the humiliating condescension from inconsiderate supervisors. Tamburri is very much aware of this repetitive cycle in his story: get job, lose job, complain, repeat. He addresses it directly and explains that, despite it being tedious as narrative, it is an accurate representation of his life.
Tamburri has a natural stage presence and paints a vivid portrait of his character’s experience. It is a shame that the audience at the performance I attended was so small; I think the energy of a larger crowd would draw more intensity out of him.
In his keen observations, I could see a pretty solid awareness of himself and others; this was hard for me to reconcile with the really bad judgement Christopher often displays.
In one harrowing scene, he ruins a potential meet-cute and creates an HR catastrophe for himself by following some truly awful advice from a malicious co-worker. Christopher obviously knows it is bad advice, and he was actually doing so well on his own instincts, so his disastrous mis-step seems contrived. His excuse of being “too impressionable” didn’t quite convince me. I am aware, though, that my unfamiliarity with the specific characteristics of Christopher’s place on the spectrum may account for my incredulity.
The blatant cruelty Christopher faces is truly appalling and almost too much to bear, but his rugged resilience and steadfast determination to contribute to the world does balance out the experience.
As theatre, I Christopher isn’t as elegant as it could be, but there is an honesty here that really hits home. Also, Tamburri’s affable charisma is very persuasive.