Recently, I went to see a play called Contained at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Contained is a refreshingly honest, raw and human performance delivered by artists with learning disabilities who are part of Mind The Gap theatre.
The performance combines dance, music and moving words spoken by each of the artists inspired by their own life stories, their struggles, their fight and ultimately their resilience. Some went through foster care, some spent many months in hospital, faced deteriorating and persisting health problems, others moved from home to home in search of love and acceptance. But through it all they persevered.
Though their stories are heartbreaking, each and every one of them showed empowerment, positivity and light. In the face of difficulties, they demonstrated courage and determination to prove themselves and showcase their abilities rather than be defined by their disabilities.
There was Jez, masterful on the keyboard, Zara on the drums and Alison on the saxophone. Other artists danced, beat-boxed and shared their stories with wit and charm.
All 10 performers took to the mic, introducing themselves, sharing their journey in life thus far, their hopes and aspirations for the future with candour and positivity, the likeness of which I left wishing we saw more of in this world. This inspiring group of artists showed that they are defined not by their disabilities nor the hardships of their past but by their abilities and determination in the face of adversity.
A key theme song of the performance was Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up”. The lyrics, “Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up for your rights” chanted by the cast and crew resounded with new meaning in the auditorium. The song choice was apt in the face of the harsh reality of the UK government’s recent cuts to disability allowances. The performance was in many ways a message and a plea to the oligarchy, who have put more pressures on those with disabilities by reducing the benefits they depend upon to survive. It is an injustice to expect those with learning disabilities to be given the same opportunities for work as those without. There are many ways in which we can support our community by raising our voices in support of each other’s injustices. You can find ways of supporting Mind The Gap by clicking on the embedded link.
Whilst I left the theatre feeling totally inspired by this group of wonderful souls, I also left feeling totally underwhelmed with myself and my ingratitude for all the under-utilised abilities contained within my own being. I left with renewed motivation to maximise my own potential.
At the end of the show, during the Q&A, an audience member asked the artists and show producers why the show had been named, Contained. They threw the question back at the audience and asked us to ponder upon what the word meant to them having seen the show; for it is a reflection of ourselves how we perceive a title and a label.
Upon reflection, I thought of two meanings: on the one hand, just as we label ourselves by nationality, by religion, by sexual orientation, so too do we label ourselves by abilities and as such place ourselves in containment. This performance only further cemented my belief that we should not be contained at all for containment is a trapping for the narrow minded plague within society.
On the other hand, I found the performance of Contained as a banner for our content, for the abilities, truth and beauty contained within us all. It is this positive and uplifting definition that stood out for me.
In a world society that is becoming ever more interconnected through the power of the internet, the power of human interaction, sharing our truth, our hurt and pain is the only beautiful way in which we may be set free to flourish. It is the only way in which we may be able to become more compassionate, caring human beings.
This performance was brave, insightful and inspiring. It reminds and teaches us all to focus on our abilities, be grateful for all our blessings, maximise our potential and live life to its fullest. It reminds us of the beauty in the raw, honest truth and it’s ability to break walls and build bridges between us all.
So, Get Up, Stand Up!