Black Swan Theatre Company
Directed by Clare Watson
Set and costume designer Tyler Hill
Lighting designer Joe Lui
Composer and sound designer Rachael Dease
Performed by Julia Hales, Joshua Bott, Patrick Carter, Tina Fielding, Mark Junor, Melissa Junor, Lauren Marchbank and Hermione Merry
Heath Ledger Theatre until March 31
There is wonderful warmth about You Know We Belong Together. It envelops the audience, creating a shared, joyous experience of the rarest kind in theatre.
Its lead artist Julia Hales has Down Syndrome, as do her co-performers Joshua Bott, Patrick Carter, Lauren Marchbank, Tina Fielding, Melissa and Mark Junor.
Hales’s research into love and belonging for people with DS blossomed with the contributions of the writer Finn O’Branagáin and director Clare Watson into a genuinely impressive piece of verbatim theatre about life, family, hopes, desire, dreams and the part DS plays in all of them.
Much of the show consists of pre-recorded interviews with the performers about these life matters. (It’s important to realize that life expectancy for people with DS has gone from 25 years as recently as the 1980s to over 60 today, bringing with it a whole host of new challenges and opportunities.)
But let me dispel any suspicion that this is a dry, worthy, didactic piece – far from it. It overflows with happiness and real charm as these lovely and loving people tell us their stories. Some of them – the gorgeous romance of the Junors from Augusta is an outstanding example – are deeply moving; others are funny, sexy and sad.
It’s simply and shrewdly designed by Tyler Hill and lit by Joe Lui. Rachael Dease has composed an effective, unobtrusive soundtrack for the show.
These are stories of people who are as whole and emotionally alive as any of us.
Hales’ obsession with the eternally-running TV soap Home and Away locates and drives the show. Her real friends meet in the Summer Bay café of her imagination; its beach and the real one near her family’s Eagle Bay holiday house fold together in her mind. Her own tragedies and the melodramatic happenings in the fictional lives of H & A reflect each other, and the final scene (I won’t spoil the surprise and sheer euphoria of it) wraps and ties a ribbon around this little gift of a play.
This season is an extended encore of the show's premiere at the 2018 Perth Festival. It's success there has also earned it a relocation to the mainstage Heath Ledger Theatre.
It was a a delightful and touching show on its first outing (this review is essentially the same as it was then), and has lost nothing this time around.