Black Swan State Theatre Company have not had the best of luck when it comes to performing You Know We Belong Together. They were originally scheduled to perform at the EIF in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way. Ditto for 2021. This week, two performances were unfortunately cancelled due to cast illness. A couple of hours before tonight’s performance, an email informed us that five out of seven of the cast members had fallen ill with Covid, so the show was going ahead in a reduced form. As such, the show we saw clearly wasn’t quite what had been initially intended.
Billed as a live documentary, You Know We Belong Together is still a fascinating piece of work. Lead performer and writer Julia Hales and director Clare Watson have crafted the show around the idea of Hales’s search for love. Hales also happens to have watched every episode of Australian soap Home And Away, so the pair have crafted a show that combines live storytelling and filmed footage of interviews with other people looking for love – though it possibly would have featured more than one other performer on stage, recounting their experiences.
Hales and her fellow performers – Joshua Bott appears on stage, though others are featured on film – have an extra chromosome, meaning that they all have Down’s syndrome. Throughout the show, Hales makes an eloquent case for the fact that they all have dreams, desires, ambitions, and want to have children – just the same as anyone else. Is it really right, she questions, that pregnant women may be urged to not take the same care of a foetus that’s been identified as having the extra chromosome?
Watson’s direction is fun, paying ample amounts of homage to Summer Bay while including some endearing audience participation, and the show effortlessly integrates the filmed footage into the live action. Hales does an awesome job of presumably coping with hasty last-minute re-blocking. Despite the setbacks, this flung together version of the show packs quite a punch. You can only imagine that the intended version would would go even further and wring even more emotion out of the starkly awful truth: that we’re still not nearly good enough at representing one in five of the population on stage, screen, in art, and in the way that we’ve built the world around us. We need to do better.