Daughters of Fortune – Mia – Mind The Gap – New Wolsey Studio and touring
Mind the Gap are the UK’s largest and most prolific learning disabled theatre company. Formed in Bradford in 1988 they have toured both original and adapted productions – including the powerful piece Contained which told the stories of nine interwoven lives, Stig of the Dump, Treasure Island and Of Mice and Men. Their aim is to bring to the fore discussion about disability and to give disabled performers an opening into the acting profession. A number of Mind the Gap associates have moved on to roles in TV including a member of the Mia ensemble, JoAnne Haines, who had just completed a role in day time soap Doctors.
Mia is part of an intended trilogy called Daughters of Fortune devised and directed by Joyce Nga Yu Lee, whose aim is to bring to the open the subject of learning disability and parenthood. According to statistics, in the UK around 7% of adults with learning disabilities are parents but 40% have their children taken away.
Performed on a minimal set in the New Wolsey Studio – an intimate space that suited the piece well – four actors took us through a number of scenes that raised questions around the whole subject of what it means to be a disabled adult in a relationship who want a family of their own. What rights do they have and what rights should they have? How important is it to allow them to follow their hearts? What level of support should be available? What criteria should they be measured against?
The performance got off to a rather slow start – not helped by much of the dialogue being given to newcomer Anna Gray who was sometimes difficult to hear. However – the piece soon got into its stride with experienced performer Alan Clay bringing some well judged humour to the performance – especially in a very well executed game show scene – Don’t Drop the Baby.
JoAnne Haines and Alison Short completed the quartet – and once the piece got into its stride all four worked well as a team to bring the subject alive. Using dance and physical theatre as well as film and live performance we had an interesting science lesson, a look at the role of social services and some potent reminders of the humanity involved in situations that often just become another set of case notes for the authorities.
This was very much a play on the side of the disabled – as you might expect – but it would have been interesting to have heard some other sides to the argument – from social workers, advocates and the parents of disabled children themselves. There are complex issues here – about the rights of the child as well as the parent – and the question of resources and suitability – but these were not really raised or tackled.
Having said that – this piece does open the discussion – and that can only be good in a country where disability is still a difficult subject.
A thoughtful and thought provoking evening.