Italian Play Set Out to Tackle the Dark Side of Dyslexic

With the advances of assistive technology and support in education and the workplace, dyslexic traits that were traditionally seen as barriers can now be overcome. One issue that still prevails though, is the self-deprecation caused by negative reactions to the quirky neuro-diverse ways.

It is estimated that 40% to 60% of dyslexic children experience anxiety, depression and attention deficit. “Although most dyslexics are not depressed, they are at a higher risk of intense feelings of sorrow and pain.” Says Pennie Aston, Director of GroOops counselling service. Playwright and actor Francesco Riva’s new play, “Dyslexia… Where are you, Albert??” tackles some of these issues head on. The play focuses on the life of the main character, a young boy called Giacamo and his experiences growing up with dyslexia. Giacamo is a misfit in school and misunderstood by teachers and students who believe he is stupid.

The play comes in the form of a monologue and explores the reality of how Giacomo deals with the reactions from the character’s that surround him on a daily basis. Riva explains that this is a “problem many children and teenagers have to face in a scholastic and social environment.” This can be overwhelming, which Riva powerfully illustrates as he morphs and embodies new characters, like a scattered brain filling with ideas and thoughts. The story builds when Giacamo encounters an inspiring teacher who understands the way he thinks and depicts the world of learning to him in a fresh light. Prior to gaining this essential help, Riva discusses how he goes through a physical “shutdown” which sends him into a state of depression.

Being dyslexic himself, Riva is able to explore anecdotes from his own experiences, “I remember when I was a kid, my father had to teach me the months of the year … He uses a song to teach them, otherwise I wouldn’t remember the order.” Art and creativity is something which many dyslexics excel in, discovering new ways of learning and building them into their coping strategy. Riva himself sought inspiration through art, explaining how he was previously inspired by an Indian movie called Taare Zameen Par (Stars on Earth), which focuses on similar issues.

Riva has hopes for his own work to inspire people; during the play Giacamo transforms into the persona of many famous dyslexics, “I talked about them just to say, even though you are a dyslexic, that doesn’t mean … you can’t reach your dreams.” With Riva’s play storming across Italy; it would appear it has worked as a driving force to bring about a sense of change, within the dyslexic community and beyond. Riva reflects, “People who don’t have dyslexia, they’ve come out of the monologue and they say, ‘Listen I finally understand why my classmate had this problem.’”

The play has not only made waves within the education system but has captured the hearts of the general public, filling 1000 seat capacity venues. I have suspicions that Riva’s work isn’t finished here. Stay tuned for more tour dates in the near future!

This content was written for The Codpast which is an online publication for people with dyslexia. Get more updates on this great cause by following them on Facebook or Twitter


Me Before You – An Emotional Investment

*WARNING* You’ll have to compromise your dignity and mascara upon stepping into the cinema.


I honestly went into Me Before You, blind to the consequences. I mean, I knew it was going to be a sad one, but I had no real concept of where the story was going and how deeply it may affect me. Depending on how emotionally invested you get with stories – films or books alike, then this might be something to consider. Personally, I get very emotionally involved, the story will capture my heart, take me on a journey and I will live the rollercoaster with every character that I have been taught to love. However, this is one of the many things I love about film, books and music, I let myself go and can become vulnerable. Sometimes this can lead to shattering consequences but every now and again, just sometimes, it might mean that you are able to stumble upon something truly great.

Furthermore, I can see why some people may find the idea of knowingly going to see a sad film, a slightly alien one but I go because I hold out for those moments that are going to take you by surprise and be beautiful and tragic all wrapped into one. So if I’ve managed to still hold onto you this far, then the important part to take from this, is that Me Before You has one of those rather special moments.

I don’t want to be one of those reviews that completely gives the game away, riddled with spoilers so instead, I’ll give you a brief synopsis and leave it on a slight cliffhanger (because I’m nice like that).

Me Before You
, originally a book and then adapted for the big screen by writer, Jojo Moyes starts by introducing us to the male lead, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) and his life with the rather flawless girlfriend, Alicia (Vanessa Kirby). However, soon and quite abruptly into the start of the film, Will’s life is turned upside down when he is hit by a motorbike and left paralysed. It is important to remember the kind of life he led before the accident, not only did he have the perfect girlfriend but he also wasn’t one to live on the safe side. He was an extremely social character, adored by women but also admired by men and an avid fan of sports, bringing a new meaning to ‘thrill-seeker’.

Therefore, just about everything that made Will’s life so enjoyable and worthwhile is now just a mere memory of what once was. Understandably, frustrated and angry at the world, Will falls into a state of depression, resenting having to live as a grown man under his parents roof and be taken care of in his every move. Concerned parents, Stephen and Camilla (Charles Dance and Janet McTeer) decide a friend to talk to and someone to keep him company would hopefully change Will’s outlook on life…

Queue Lou Clarke, (Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones beauty) who bursts onto the scene full of life and colour.

While she may not be quite the flawless character we saw play Will’s girlfriend at the beginning of the film, she has other qualities that override this. She is full of wit, has a questionable dress sense with a slight ditsy nature about her but all of this contributes to making her such an endearing, relatable character.

However, Will doesn’t give Lou an easy time, to say the least. Not welcoming the company at first, Will pushes Lou away with his agitation and snappy tendencies. Lou is desperate for the job though, in a bid to help her family with financial issues and so views it as her mission to persist, intent on helping and making progress somehow. Slowly an understanding begins to form between the two and from there a seed has been planted and rest assured, we all know something special is about to grow.

Now, that’s where the storytelling ends… I did say it would be a cliffhanger!

I can tell you though, that Me Before You is a superb cinematic experience and a definite worthwhile way to spend just under two hours. If I could advise just one thing in all of this, it would be, to not be afraid of crying. Don’t run away from whatever sadness or pain you are trying to shield yourself from, that may result in avoidance to watch this. By doing so, you may be missing out on some beautiful storytelling. The kind of storytelling that captures what love is and what it is that makes us humans reach out, create bonds and feel emotion, in this world which is too often full of hate and turmoil.

Watch the trailer for Me Before You here: