Mind The Gap is one of Europe’s leading disability theatre companies, and its most recent production at the Fringe proves why. Mia: Daughters of Fortune is an exceptionally original piece of theatre that digs its heels in and refuses to be categorised.
The show is an exploration of the experiences of parenthood, or potential parenthood, lived by those with a learning disability. It deconstructs and rips apart ideas that society at large holds about the sexuality and agency of those with learning disabilities, sending up the condescending questions that are never asked of people without them.
Representations of life with a learning disability are shockingly rare in media and the arts. Even when there is representation it more often than not involves generalisations and assumptions from those far removed from the reality of what disability means. It is rare that we hear about lived experiences through the voices of people who know its truths. But this is what Daughters of Fortune does.
Each of the four actors deliver performances which are emotive and amusing, pulling off both clever irony and heartfelt monologue with flair and nuance. In one scenario, Alan Clay plays a cheesy game show host with hilarious accuracy, interacting with the audience and presenting a searing satire of a society which patronises and infantilises those with disabilities. In another scene of physical theatre, Anna Gray and JoAnne Haines perform a dance which is full of emotion and energy. Then Alison Colbourne delivers an important lesson in science and chromosomes which both intrigues and entertains. The cast are incredibly versatile, making the show playful one moment and delivering hard truths the next.
The team behind the scenes have also achieved something immense, creating tech that is infinitely creative and full of surprises. There is live camera work, touching footage, and insightful clips of conversation punctuating the show.
It is both art and education, delivering lessons in biology, statistics and social realities that are always colourful and never boring. It is a privilege as an audience to be given such an honest and soul bearing insight into lives that are so often othered.
This play has a clear message; stop patronising and underestimating lives which you know nothing about. It is a much needed middle finger held high in the face of our society’s assumptions about learning disability.
Mia: Daughters of Fortune played at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.