Ladies and gents, meet Lewis Bray

Written by Lewis Bray

The lovely people at Kirkgate Arts have asked me to write a blog post about myself, as I’m going to be bringing Cartoonopolis to Cockermouth on the 16th of June!

A little about me

I’m just a normal kind of actor bloke that is really interested in listening to people's stories. I feel that this is what makes us human: the stories that we tell and how we help inspire each other. It’s really why I wanted to be an actor.

I have a massive interest in hip-hop music (although I do not possess any rapping skills, ha). I was a part of the Liverpool Everyman’s Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) where I did my training as an actor. And this is where I earned the support of the Everyman’s Ignition project to develop Cartoonopolis.

How Cartoonopolis came about

When I graduated from YEP I was awarded the Ignition funding. I approached two directors (Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson) at the Everyman to help me create Cartoonopolis. I remember saying that I wanted to give my brother a voice and create a platform to do this.

I wanted to create this show not just to raise more awareness of autism but to really kick ass and bring a new positive outlook to it! I want to empower not only Jack but every person who is on the spectrum to be the best that they can be, showing them that it’s okay to not be afraid to use their voice.

For too long people like Jack have been told, "Well you can’t because you’re on the spectrum". I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I honestly was just fed up of seeing, not only my family, but countless families getting trodden on. I had to write something to help people understand autism better and bring people together to start to create the change we want.

Getting creative

That’s when the creative work all began... We spent months researching and developing the project meeting many different people.

When Matt and Chris first came to the house, after the introductions were done, I remember Matt mentioning he might be looking for a tent for the summer. My Dad offered to sell them our tent and various other household items to go along with it. I think it was at this point Matt and Chris where sold on doing the project! We then spent hours in Jack’s imaginary world asking him how he wanted his story to be told. And with all that wealth of information we set to writing the play.

The response

Since the start of the project we have had an outpouring of messages on social media, saying how much they were inspired by the show. Families, doctors, nurses and teachers have all messaged me telling me how they are going to change their practice towards autism and disability in general.

I also had a message from one family, saying that they sat in the car after the show and their son had said, "Is that all that you go through for me?" and his sister said, "I’m so glad I’m autistic because it helps me understand my brother in a way nobody else can." I can’t tell you how incredible messages like this are to me and the team.

One young man came with his Mother to the show, who, like Jack, is autistic and has a love for cartoons and an American accent. I could hear him half way though the show say “THIS SHOW IS JUST LIKE ME!” It was a very special moment for me. I sat and spoke to him after the show and as he went to get his coat his mum said "Thank you for helping him understand."

>>> Huge thank you to Lewis for doing a great job with our first guest take over. Grab your tickets now to see the show live here at the Kirkgate on the 16th June at 8pm. Don't miss it!