Teen’s eye­sight poor but vi­sion bright


A Porirua teenager with bad eye­sight has shown clear vi­sion be­hind the scenes of a na­tional theatre tour­ing com­pany.

Whitby res­i­dent De­clan Cal­laghan, 18, lives with vi­sion prob­lems that are like ‘‘look­ing up at the bot­tom of a swim­ming pool’’, asperger syn­drome that makes the vac­uum cleaner sound ‘‘like a chain­saw go­ing through your head’’, and tourette syn­drome that causes in­vol­un­tary move­ments.

But he has a bright fu­ture in de­sign.

Cal­laghan has been cre­at­ing and mak­ing cos­tumes for Ania Up­still. She is the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Welling­ton-based Shake­spearean tour­ing com­pany Lord Lack­beards’ pro­duc­tion of Ham­let.

The play is per­formed by an all-fe­male cast that brings its own chal­lenges – Ham­let is about five months preg­nant.

Cal­laghan worked with each ac­tor, learn­ing how they saw their char­ac­ter and how he should in­cor­po­rate it into the de­sign be­fore se­lect­ing ma­te­ri­als.

‘‘I do some of the work by feel­ing, but a lot of it’s just look­ing at some­thing and see­ing the way the light re­flects,’’ he said.

He de­vel­oped an in­tense fo­cus on the work, which be­gan af­ter a meet­ing with Up­still – who de­scribed him as a ‘‘tal­ented young man’’ – on March 14.

That ded­i­ca­tion helps keep the tourette syn­drome in or­der, but of­ten leaves him fa­tigued.

Cal­laghan hit head­lines this year af­ter play­ing a key part in get­ting ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties to re­view a rule that stopped read­er­writ­ers from be­ing able to type test an­swers – a se­ri­ous hur­dle for a cor­re­spon­dence stu­dent want­ing NCEA cred­its.

His mother, Sharon Cal­laghan, works with peo­ple with spe­cial needs be­sides teach­ing her son and sewing his de­signs.

She said peo­ple with asperger syn­drome of­ten had great tal­ents, ‘‘but they’re locked in be­cause they can’t com­mu­ni­cate’’.

Cal­laghan’s cre­ative pas­sions might be traced to his love of The Lord of the Rings. He first read it when he was 6 and, be­fore his vi­sion wors­ened, was up to 500 words a minute.

The film pro­duc­tion of The Hob­bit, along with its nine-hour pro­duc­tion doc­u­men­tary, later steered him to­ward cos­tume de­sign.

The Lack­beards’ Ham­let ar­rives in Welling­ton next month.

Whitby res­i­dent De­clan Cal­laghan, 18, has se­cured an in­tern­ship to de­sign and make cos­tumes for Lord Lack­beards’ pro­duc­tion of Ham­let.

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