Week 6 of VAULT Festival starts tomorrow and we were lucky enough to talk to the director of Mia: Daughters of Fortune, Joyce Nga Yu Lee, about their incredible show that looks at the parents who have learning disabilities. Mind the Gap are one of Europes leading learning disability theatre companies, and we love following the amazing work that they make - read on to hear why they decided to make Mia.
What drove you to make Mia: Daughters of Fortune?
I remember back in 2015, one of the Artists at Mind the Gap was telling me about her pregnant sister who also has a learning disability. The story opened my eyes because I realised that there are a lot of hurdles that this woman and the family were having to go through to prove that she was fit to be a mother - a process that non disabled people don’t have to go through! Mia: Daughters of Fortune aims to tackle the subject of learning disability and parenthood head on. Through Mia: Daughters of Fortune, I want people to start to consider this issue and make their own judgement. I do not want to advocate any one single point of view. We are all different people and the success of humanity depends on mutual understanding and cooperation. I wanted to tackle the issue head on because we have been hiding away from it for too long, too many misunderstandings and assumptions have been made. It is time we examine the subject with a no nonsense approach and, hopefully, come to a mutual understanding.
Who is Mia for?
Mia has been created as an engaging theatre experience that resonates with both learning disabled and non-disabled audiences. It’s for people who are interested in new writing, fast paced contemporary theatre as well as issue based work. Mia has previously toured the country twice as well as performing a three week run at Summerhall as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. From the audience feedback we have gathered, Mia is of particular interest to people who work in health and social care sectors, midwives, social workers and people who have an interest in the subject of learning disability. I want the show to be seen by people from all walks of life, opening up the subject to as many people as possible. The discussion that Mia raises among people of differing opinions can be fascinating.
Whats the process of research for the show been like?
In partnership with Royal Holloway and with the support of the Wellcome Trust, the team collected real stories from parents with a learning disability. Everything in Mia is grounded in real life stories. The subject matter is so sophisticated and hard hitting, I use a lot of theatrical devices to make sure it is accessible while not simplistic, absorbing and entertaining while not dismissive of the weight of the issue. The performance is structured with a series of non-linear episodes strung together with a progressive narrative arc. The episodes vary in form and pace, from high energy pop dance to intimate acting, low tech object manipulation to live feed camera and loop pedal. Mia is highly demanding for the performers, and catered for audiences with a critical and inquisitive mind.
Why is theatre a great platform to discuss disability?
I believe theatre has the capability to touch hearts and minds and sometimes, when done well, even change them. When you see everybody within the theatre space breathe the same breath and their hearts beat to the same rhythm. When you feel on and off stage that we’re connected as one entity, that’s when you know that the piece has achieved empathy amongst the human beings therein.
What shows at VAULT are you looking forward to?
We’re really looking forward to seeing work by other great disability companies and artists including Georgie Morrell - Eyecon; Silent Faces - A Clown Show About Rain and Mahdi Gilbert - Madhi The Magician. I’m also looking forward to seeing This is It Theatre - For a Black Girl; Bonar & Rob Watt - Be Prepared and Rhum and Clay - Testosterone. It’s such a brilliant programme this year, I’ll be seeing as much as I can!
You can see Mia: Daughters of Fortune on March 1 and 2 at VAULT Festival.