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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Four stars for You Know We Belong Together

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In her personal show-and-tell, Julia Hales describes how life is like one giant soap opera and how it has now arrived in Edinburgh after being delayed twice by the COVID pandemic.

Even after it has come, there is still drama, as Clare Watson’s production for Australia’s Black Swan State Theatre Company had to be changed because five of the seven-member cast had to appear on film rather than in person owing to the virus.

This does not deter the unstoppable Hales, who interweaves her personal account of having Down syndrome with her lifelong fascination with Home and Away, the sun-kissed Australian soap opera that is still going strong after 34 years.

In Tyler Hill’s mock-up of the diner from the Home and Away television series, where anything may and frequently does happen, Hales accomplishes this with a great deal of charm. She even invents a character for the programme and comes up with a number of dramatic story twists on her own.

Beyond TV drama, Hale and her cast draw on the community of people with Down syndrome’s collective experience and how it is still marginalised. Joshua Bott, the sole actor in the company who was fortunate enough to escape COVID, joins Hales on stage as she pursues love.

Additionally, audience members are co-opted to join her extended family, whether they are fake or not. Patrick Carter, Tina Fielding, Mark Junor, Melissa Junor, and Lauren Marchbank all enthusiastically join the group on television.

The story, which Hales co-wrote with Watson and Finn O’Branagain, is refreshingly honest and pushed by humour and a few dance moves rather than polemic to become a call to arms that is inspired by the power of love rather than war.

It also accidentally demonstrates how screen-based work may contribute significantly to the theatrical experience in a post-lockdown future by utilising Michael Carmody’s video design to the fullest. Even better, Hales writes a happy conclusion for herself.

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