REVIEW: JOY (Theatre Royal Stratford East) ★★★★
“You know what I hate the most? I open my mouth to say something and before I’ve even said anything I can see people ready to say “no”, to shake their heads. So, I’ve decided, I am not a pet. I am just me. And I love being me.”
JOY tells the story of a young woman who has Down’s Syndrome – but that certainly isn’t going to stop her from living her life. She’s at college, she has a job and a boyfriend. The only people who treat her like she is different is everyone else around her. Joy just wants to be seen for who she is, beneath the body she is in. She isn’t disabled, she isn’t different, she is just a young woman making her way through life.
Joy is studying a book about a girl like her in Victorian times and we cleverly see this story interwoven with her own. In the victorian story we see a sister taking her disabled sister to a home where she will be looked after and studied for science. Sadly it is the safest place out there for her. But in the modern day story, Joy doesn’t want to be kept in a cage like a pet. Because she can do anything.
Some of the cast are identified as having learning disabilities, some are not. All have graduated from Drama School but some sadly may not be given a fair shot at theatre roles in the mainstream because they are ‘disabled’. I agree with what Joy says in the play “Disability is a shit word, I’m not using it anymore” and it would be wonderful if we could live in a world where we didn’t.
Joy isn’t a life changing play, the story isn’t groundbreaking but the message is. As someone who is an advocate for making theatre accessible to as many people as possible (whether that be for the actors on stage or those in the audience) this is certainly a play that deserves to be seen.
Joy is a heart warming story about family having to let their children grow up and go out in to the world, regardless of how much we might want to wrap them up in cotton wool and protect them forever.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Mathew Foster