Human relationships are complex and fascinating, but what happens when a girl with Down Syndrome falls in love with a man who ends up being her carer’s boyfriend?
In “Downs With Love” a play that toured throughout Scotland, Beth (played by lead actress Abigal Brydon) becomes friends with Tracey, her support worker. Tracey and Beth get together multiple times a week to sing, watch TV, and do chores, but Beth wants to take Tracey on a special outing. Every Friday night, Beth goes to the local pub where she listens to a singer named Mark. Mark is handsome, has an angelic voice, and is around her age, and Beth hopes that he will one day fall in love with her. At first Mark ignores her and finds it difficult and awkward to relate to someone with a disability, but as support worker, Tracey, urges him to at least be friendly and kind to Beth a friendship forms. Mark, Tracey, and Beth all begin spending time together, going to the movies, going out for coffee, and going bowling. Eventually Mark works up the courage to ask Tracey to go on a date with him. Tracey does not feel comfortable going behind Beth’s back, but she agrees as long as it is just a casual date, not a “date date”. Yet as Mark and Tracey grow closer together, they both start getting more and more distant from Beth who truly believes that something might eventually happen between her and Mark. Soon the day comes when Mark and Tracey have to break the news to Beth, a moment she does not handle well. She is devastated and feels like her friends have betrayed her. She questions whether it is all about her disability and if she were simply “normal” if she would have the chance for love. Yet, at the end of the play, all is remedied as Mark and Tracey get married and Beth forgives them both and is truly happy for them and so their relationship continues.
The play “Downs with Love” is based off of Beth’s (Abigal Brydon’s) own experience. Abigal is part of a local theatre troupe called Inspire that welcomes actors of various ability levels. Abi has even succeed in her dream of being a professional by taking classes at a local college, though her ultimate dream is to one day be on television! Throughout the play, Abi weaves in her past humiliations of being bullied in school and seen as different, as well as her day-to-day routines and her own previous relationships. It is a play that is at once realistic, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
After watching the play and having the question and answer session with the panel, I came away with so many questions about how our society perceives people with disabilities in relationships. Do we view that as awkward or romantic? Do people with disabilities have enough resources to learn about relationships as the general public? What is right or wrong in a relationship for someone with a disability, who decides that, and why?
This play really showed me that it is so imperative to support those with disabilities to accomplish their dreams in the same way as we would for anyone else. It is important to be honest, upfront, and to be clear about boundaries.
I have never seen a play quite like this one, but I believe this is the start of something amazing when it comes to disability inclusion in the theatrical world. The director, Suzanne Lofthus, has so many upcoming dreams for continuing to make similar plays and maybe in the future, films. Until, then, I am excited to see more actors with developmental disabilities taking centre stage and reminding us of how love can be a possibility for us all.