Finding your place in the world: The ADHD Project, a Fringe review

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

The ADHD Project (La Cité francophone Auditorium)

The woman before us onstage is her own best evidence that having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) has its up sides.

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The energy of Carlyn Rhamey’s solo show is so attractive, and its creator/star so appealing, so ready to see the comical side of her own storytelling, that you’ll want to cheer. But growing up “special,” being a bit different in a world that rewards sameness, has its sadnesses and struggles too, as you’ve probably always suspected. And is confirmed, in a personal, first-hand way, in The ADHD Project.

Rhamey herself is “the project.” Her show is a first-hand chronicle of what it’s like to be barraged by challenges that include (as we learn) frantic fidgety energy, impulsive behavior, inability to pay attention, faulty memory. And she has the anecdotes and a supply of droll family photos, videos, and report cards — annotated with a comical slant, to document it.

The subtext, which gradually seeps through the bright surfaces of comedy, is a sense of exclusion, of loneliness. Kids have a cruel instinct for sussing out misfits: her younger self is a target for bullying — and it’s in both the classic styles. Her classmates either attack her or they pretend she doesn’t exist. The birthday party anecdotes are a heartbreaker.

Turning personal confession directly into theatre is a challenge in itself, as you know if you’ve spent any time fringing in the last 40 summers. The ADHD Project, thankfully, is decidedly not an example of personal therapy for the person onstage, depositing their supply of grievances, or the contents of their mind, into your lap. This is a show about stepping bravely into the fray, and thinking positive. ADHD people, after all, tend to be high-energy creative thinkers, problem-solvers par excellence. “Their brains are on fire,” says Rhamey. So it’s good to have them on hand when the world is burning.

Rhamey talks about the feeling she had, as a kid, “that no matter what I do I can’t find my place.” The fact that she’s in a theatre, a bright and user-friendly presence, making us laugh and teaching us something as she tells her own story, is a tip-off that her place has been found.

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