Review: ★★★★★ Jellyfish, The Bush Theatre

Review: ★★★★★ Jellyfish, The Bush Theatre

‘What about people who can’t make friends? Or who don’t laugh and are full of no love? They’re the real disabilities. I think.’

Kelly (Sarah Gordy) is not defined by her chromosomes; a vivacious woman first, her Down syndrome is secondary. When she falls in love with Neil (Ian Bonar), a man without DS, her mother Agnes (Penny Layden) is immediately suspicious and Kelly and Neil have to fight for acceptance and their right to be together.

Writer Ben Weatherill breaks new ground with this touching and thought provoking coming of age drama. Few playwrights have been so attentive to disability, yet considering the unsolved problem of caring for the disabled, the fear of talking about disability and the unacknowledged taboo around disabled sex, the need for literary engagement feels urgent.

Three tonnes of sand cover the studio space of The Bush Theatre. The exciting sounds of Ella Wahlstrom’s arcade machines and bright illuminations of Jamie Platt’s light design evoke memories of family holidays at the seaside. Like many modern coastal towns it has a run-down feel, a decline perfectly captured by Amy Jane Cook’s crumbling signs and abandoned fairground rides – a solitary merry-go-round horse symbolising the loss of childhood innocence.

Jellyfish shows love comes in all shapes and forms; a mature and tender play, wonderfully directed by Tim Hoare and superbly acted by its exceptional cast – including Nicky Priest in the supporting role of Dominic; a reminder that there are other types of disabilities, often hidden from plain sight. The fact that both Gordy and Priest were found via ProFile, a casting database set up purely to discover d/Deaf and disabled talent and to champion this group of artists is a huge step forward in breaking down the barriers that exist between disability and the arts.

A tale of love and family in modern Britain, Jellyfish transcends boundaries and shows humanity in all its variations. A must see!

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