Recently I became aware of a BBC documentary, Growing Up Downs, which I have to praise as it shone the light on a talented group of young actors.
Growing Up Downs, shown on BBC Three, demonstrated the progress that the young vulnerable adults have made in tackling prejudice and discrimination; two key factors holding back total integration of people with mental health diagnoses into society. There is still a lot to be done, as the documentary has briefly touched on some of the problems that such talented and ambitious young people still face.
Growing Up Downs shows a troupe of young actors as they rehearse, stage and tour their version of the Shakespearian tragedy Hamlet. Filmed by William Jessop, brother of leading actor, Tommy Jessop, it follows how their own lives start to mirror art as rehearsals progress and they become more deeply involved in the production, the themes of Hamlet, of love, loss and they discover more about their own feelings for each other.
In common with other young people Tommy finds himself attracted to his leading lady Katie and worries about asking her out. When he does pluck up the courage we follow the early stages of their romance and how it becomes more intense. As Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship breaks down on stage so too does that of Tommy and Katie off stage and they decide to split up until the tour is over.
It really was a privilege to see the young stars as they juggle the various demands that pursuing their dreams has put them under, and refreshingly, that they were shown as they truly are, ordinary young people growing up.
You would imagine that success would assure his reputation and guarantee packed houses wherever he played. Unfortunately not, they struggle, so Jane, Tommy’s mum hits the road to personally drum up support and ensure it’s a box office hit. Her main concern understandably is that if the Blue Apple Theatre’s version of Hamlet doesn’t succeed, future productions will not even get a chance, being deemed too much of a risk. Her frustration, being that of so many of us here at ubu, is that her son and his friends do not get the same chance as every other young person in society; held back by perceptions and prejudice about what they could and should achieve.
Growing Up Downs must be applauded for the honest light it shines on Tommy and his friends. It is heartwarming, yet troubling that they face such a struggle to sell tickets when their production should stand on its merits.
ubu echoes the thoughts of the Jessop family who have spent Tommy’s life trying to ensure he has the chance to achieve his ambitions of becoming an actor. We believe that every person should be enabled to decide what and how they want to live their lives and then be supported to achieve it.
Our uStep model currently supports more than 500 people across the North of England as they work towards independent living, achieving their goals and ambitions they have set for themselves. The biggest hurdle they and we face is the prejudice and discrimination of others.
Society has to review the way it looks at vulnerable adults and I hope that Growing Up Downs will be one step in that journey.