There was not a dry eye in London’s Mermaid Theatre on Saturday night, as trans performers Jack Roberts and Elphaba Orion delivered a moving rendition of For Good from the musical Wicked at this year’s Autism’s Got Talent.
Jack, 17, then took a moment to share what it means to be a trans person. “Please do not worry if you get my pronouns wrong,” he told the packed audience, showing a maturity beyond his years. “It is all new, especially for older people. I won’t be offended.”
The pair met at a local youth club and bonded over their shared love of musical theatre. Elphaba, 18, is a TikTok sensation, and many of her loyal fans were in the audience. It is the teenager’s dream to become the first trans Elphaba in Wicked the musical. With the voice of a superstar, it cannot be long before she is flying across theatres on that broom!
This is the eleventh year of Autism’s Got Talent, created by Anna Kennedy OBE, whose two adult sons live with autism. It did not take long for word to get out about the stellar quality of the performers, and it has since become a sell-out show.
With more than 500,000 people diagnosed with autism in the UK alone, and many more undiagnosed, it is still an often misunderstood disorder. While it can be difficult for those living with autism to express themselves, they are often highly intelligent and capable people who can achieve the extraordinary, particularly given the opportunity to do things in their own way.
Many celebrities have attended Autism’s Got Talent over the years to support the acts, including Katie Price (whose son Harvey has performed in the past), and Loose Women’s Denise Welch. This year did not disappoint, with over 22 acts, all beyond exceptional. The show opened with the Pineapple Dance Studio, who have supported Anna from the start and offer scholarships to some of the performers. It is sadly impossible to highlight every act, however those that really stood out for me were: Charlie Conway singing Bohemian Rhapsody, family act ‘The Stencil Pencils’, Connor Yates with an astonishing performance of My Way dedicated to his late grandfather, and magician Angus Baskerville, who delighted on stage and also entertained the waiting crowd.
Guest presenters included Minder and EastEnders actor Gary Webster, and Chris Hamilton, one half of Tiano. The show was held together by compere Phillip Barnett, who performed in the ‘People’s Strictly’, and, of course, Anna Kennedy herself. Anna and her team of unpaid volunteers work tirelessly not only to educate on the topic, but also to create diverse shows like this. We salute them.
The grand finale saw DJ Jordan belting out some amazing numbers, joined by the Pineapple Dancers and other acts from the night. Anna wasted no time leaping on stage and beckoning the crowd to come and funk their groove. It was a perfect night. Next year, it would be wonderful to see an autistic compere join Phillip, giving the show an all round diverse feel.
To find out more about Autisms Got Talent and Anna Kennedy Online, a small charity with a big heart that raises Autism Awareness like no other mainstream charity, click here.