An incredible performance by Julia Hales

I know I haven’t posted for a while and Trudy has started school so there is lots to say but, as usual, I am trying to navigate the political tightrope which is having a daughter with a disability in mainstream.

Nevertheless, I went to see a performance last night. It was a great performance about Home & Away and Down’s Syndrome and I have to tell you about it.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. A woman with Down’s Syndrome had written and was performing her play at the Edinburgh International Festival. I so badly wanted this to be a show which paraded acting talents and didn’t focus solely on disability and it did, in spades.

But it did not hide from the fact that the writer and performers had Down’s Syndrome. It celebrated what Down’s Syndrome has to offer. There was Julia, who knew how to command an audience with presence and confidence, Josh who really knew how to dance and others in her entourage who spoke well, painted, who had understood the true reason we are all here, to love and be loved and, above all, to have fun doing it!

It reminded me of an incredible cafe in Ilkley, West Yorkshire which I visited when Trudy was just born. This is a cafe run by adults with learning disabilities called ‘Outside The Box’. The great selling point of this cafe is that everyone talks to each other! You will get to know the people sitting on the table next to you. There is no judgement and social norms seem to be quietly set aside whilst we engage with real people.

This was the same with the theatre. We were invited to participate and I could sense everyone’s surge of fear as Julia asked people to come up to the stage. But there was no judgement, no expectation. Julia herself forgot her lines occasionally, but she accepted her stumble and didn’t judge herself for it. That gave us all hope that we could do whatever we felt we wanted to do.

So I went to find the cast, to tell them that they were utterly inspiring. Julia, in her show, talks about two hospitals in Australia that were shut down the year she was born. These hospitals entrapped adults like her and treated them like animals. This backdrop has affected us all and makes us fight harder, grateful for the extended kindness to include our young ones in life.

But Trudy won’t know any of this. She will just see people like Julia being part of the festival on her own merit and not because of her disability. She will see people with Down’s Syndrome on the TV, on radio and in jobs and expectations for her will change.

I will be eternally grateful for people like Julia who push and challenge boundaries every day. It is much more than I can ever do writing my blog so grateful, as ever, for your reading this but please go out and see shows like these. You will have a fantastic night out!

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