Mikey Brooks has been part of TRP’s Funky Llama project for the last decade. Now, as he prepares to present a show in The Lab, based on his own experience of autism, Mikey discusses the ways in which the project has helped him grow in confidence.
Mikey also goes by the name of Spike, which comes from his on-stage persona as the face painted MC at Funky Llama events. His interest in performing started at a young age.
“I’ve always been a performer at heart. When I was very young, I used to sing the number one hits of the day and re-enact scenes from movies, TV shows and games.”
Mikey was involved in several local theatre groups before joining Funky Llama, the theatre’s flagship project for disabled adults to develop wellbeing, reduce isolation and enhance life skills.
The project started in 2013, and in the same year Mikey was offered to join the first steering group session.
“I was very unsure. I was a shut-in kind of kid with my headphones on in the corner, not talking to anyone. When I got to the steering group, I was unsure, and we didn’t know each other at all. After I went to these meetings again, again and again, over time I became more involved with Funky Llama.”
Over the past decade, Mikey has helped to organise events such as club nights and festivals. But he also had another role.
“I never really expected to be the MC for Funky Llama. That’s when the face paint thing started. People get confused when they see my actual face, the less handsome, more tired face.”
The project has had a profound impact on Mikey, who says Funky Llama means everything to him.
“I didn’t realise how much it helped me until later on. This little project has helped my confidence and helped me talk a lot. My mum says I talk for Britain, most of the time.”
As Funky Llama continues to celebrate its 10th year, Mikey is most looking forward to the club night, which will see Pryzm Nightclub transformed into an inclusive nightclub atmosphere.
These celebrations aren’t the only thing Mikey is looking forward to in the coming months, as he takes to the stage to perform his own show, based on his experiences of autism. It’s being created with the help of TRP’s Artist Development team.
“My show is called Stuck On Chapter One – An Autistic Writer’s Rant. It’s exactly what it says on the tin.”
The hour-long play will be staged in The Lab in September. The play follows Mikey, an autistic writer, getting stuck on the first chapter of his epic fantasy novel.
“It’s about the joys of the great, awesome, epic moments I have in my head and the struggles of trying to get these thoughts from my head onto paper.
“It’s been my dream to perform in the theatre with my own material, and to have something that says ‘I’ve done that, it’s mine, I’ve made a play’.”
At the moment, Mikey is feeling a mixture of emotions about performing.
“It’s an amazing thing to use The Lab and perform it in front of people. I’m looking forward to it, but the nerves are there. It’s just great to be given the chance to perform my work in the theatre that I love.”
Mikey credits this incredible journey he is on with Theatre Royal Plymouth all to Funky Llama.
“I can’t imagine a world without Funky Llama. It came at the right time really.”
You can book tickets to Stuck On Chapter One – An Autistic Writer’s Rant by clicking here.
Watch Mikey’s video: