AAR-New-Theatre-JellyfishA contemporary love story and a tender exploration of what living with disability really entails, New Theatre presents the Australian premiere of Jellyfish by Ben Weatherill this June.

Kelly is an energetic young woman, never still. You sense that she has powers untapped. She loves dirty jokes and sea creatures washed up on the shore, hot chips and walks on the beach. And she loves Neil. He has kind eyes. She leaves him breathless.

For her mum, Agnes, life has been a rough journey. But she’s tough, resilient. Her jagged edges are her defence, because being mother to a daughter with Down syndrome is hard.

Now she must confront the burgeoning relationship between Kelly and Neil and come to grips with her daughter’s desire for independence and sexual fulfillment.

This radical, humorous and heartfelt play is both a contemporary love story and a tender exploration of what living with disability really entails.

For New Theatre, presenting the Australian premiere of Ben Weatherill’s warm and engaging love story marks an important step: it’s the first time an actor living with disability has featured on our stage.

“When New Theatre’s Artistic Director Louise Fischer first approached me to direct Jellyfish I did not hesitate. After reading the play I knew who my ‘Kelly’ would be,” said director, Deborah Jones.

“I’d met Audrey O’Connor back in 2019 whilst working on the feature film Kairos, which included two central characters with Down syndrome. I just hoped she’d say yes. And she did.”

Audrey O’Connor is an actor, writer and film-maker, currently studying at Actors Centre Australia. She has had years of experience doing original work with RUCKUS, using script, dance and images, but Jellyfish marks her debut on the stage in a pure theatre production.

She is a passionate advocate for people living with intellectual disability and is an Ambassador for Bus Stop Films and for Australian Human Rights IncludeAbility program.

“I was really drawn to the character of ‘Kelly’ because we live the same life; we both have Down syndrome, and we live in a diverse world and sometimes it’s difficult to balance that,” said Audrey O’Connor.

“I want people to understand that our disability does not define who we are. We are all individuals. So, take a walk in my shoes and understand that we all belong in this world; show us respect and be gentle about what you say.”

Deborah returns to New Theatre having previously helmed The WomenNell Gwynn and Little Miss Sunshine. Her team includes James Smithers (set), Michael Schell (lighting), Louise Fischer (costumes), supported by Olivia Bartha (assistant director), Linda Nicholls-Gidley (vocal coach) and Shondelle Pratt (intimacy director).

The other cast members, all making their New Theatre debuts, are Siobhan Lawless as ‘Agnes’, WAAPA graduate Joseph Tanti as ‘Neil’, and Daniel MacKenzie as ‘Dominic’.

Director: Deborah Jones | Featuring: Siobhan Lawless, Daniel Mackenzie, Audrey O’Connor, Joseph Tanti | Set Designer: James Smithers | Lighting & Sound Designer: Michael Schell | Costume Designer: Louise Fischer | Assistant Director: Olivia Bartha | Vocal Coach: Linda Nicholls-Gidley | Intimacy Director: Shondelle Pratt | Stage Manager: Rosane McNamara | Assistant Stage Manager: Georgie Moore | Operator: James Hewish

New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 7 June – 1 July 2023 (preview: 6 June)
Information and Bookings:

Image: © Bridgendboy/iStock