Mia: Daughters of Fortune

This startling, if indistinct production from Mind the Gap, England’s largest learning disability theatre company, gets straight to its point, with cast members slipping into ‘Dear Diary’ mode to talk about love, sex and… babies. Obviously, this shouldn’t surprise us; a learning disability neither prevents hormones nor blinds people to popular culture—be that Disney’s Cinderella or a sexually-choreographed Britney Spears video. So why shouldn’t people with learning disabilities also want marriage and family?

In truth, none of us are ever really ready for parenthood

Unusually, the programme notes include the ‘relationship status’ of the cast—all four are in relationships, with one married and one engaged—along with their thoughts on possibly having children at some point. As the cast interact with an accompanying sound montage, or video each other to presumably give them some aspect of dehumanised objectification, we’re told statistics surrounding parents with learning disabilities that are truly astounding—that while the official estimate is 40%, advocacy groups argue that up to 90% will have had their children removed by social services. Officialdom’s default position: they simply won’t be able to cope.

Mia: Daughters of Fortune is played in an empty space with just a few props, a video screen and a dot-matrix display on which a succession of ‘chapter titles’ are shown: Giving Birth to Ideas, Reality Check, A Day in the Life, etc. The show shifts promptly enough between scenes: from spoken word to dance (using the distortions of shadows to play with ideas of size and form); from scientific explanations of DNA to mock game show Don’t Drop The Baby. It’s a shame that the latter goes on a tad too long, dragging out audience members to ‘help’.

Mia understandably focuses on the feelings of parents—and wannabe parents—with learning disabilities, including emotional documentary quotes from those emotionally hurt by their experiences of social services and the assumptions people make about their ability—or rather, inability—to successfully raise children. While pointing out that, in truth, none of us are ever really ready for parenthood, the show’s reluctance to tackle society’s wider prejudices head-on feels a bit like a pulled punch.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Having kids isn't easy. Now imagine you have a learning disability… whoa! Can they do that? Do they even have sex? Yes, yes “they” do. Fast moving, raw and eye-opening, Mia explores the truths and myths about learning disabilities and parenthood in today’s society. Think pop culture with popcorn, science with silliness, stories with statistics. A Mind the Gap production created/directed by Joyce Ngayu Lee, performed by four learning-disabled artists. ‘Thought provoking, devoid of self-pity and stylishly presented, Mia is a stimulating examination of an issue that demands wider consideration’ (David Cunningham, Manchester Theatre Awards).