You Know We Belong Together is a heartwarming, touching variety production showcasing the passions and dreams of people living with an extra chromosome.

Credit: Toni Wilkinson

Julia Hales creates a deeply personal, warm, and somewhat, educational show. It seems more of a performance than a fully-scripted presentation. We observe Julia invite and chat with her friends on the stage, involve a couple of audience members in the gig, and watch pre-recorded interviews that touch on the topic of love and heartbreaks.

All of Julia’s friends – performers appearing on the stage, have a thing in common – they are all people with incredible passions in their lives (for painting, acting, or dancing). They also live their lives with Down Syndrome. Together, they create a performance that exposes topics around Down Syndrome, including the historical and current medical attitudes and reactions (such as the approach to abort babies with diagnosed Down Syndrome), challenges, the importance of family support, and limited expectations of broader society.

Julia starts the story with an explanation of her love for acting (she has over 20 years of acting experience), and her passion for Home and Away, an Australian soap opera, is second to none. Most of the production includes references and puns related to this TV classic (playing since 1988 with 7,000+ episodes).

That’s where my issue with the show arises. It’s very Australian – to the core, I would say. I was not aware of Home and Away at all, until seeing You Know We Belong Together (I’m just not a TV fan). I did some quick google research and a lot of things started to make more sense. Saying that some of the jokes related to the TV show were pretty straightforward even to a person like me. But some others were just too specific to be enjoyed by people not familiar with the plots of the soap opera. It would be great to get a quick introduction, in the beginning, to make the performance more inclusive for the non-Australian audience.

Credit: Toni Wilkinson

Talking about inclusion though, I have to applaud the You Know We Belong Together creative team for making it as accessible as possible. The Purcell room at the Southbank Centre has a wheelchair-accessible audience space, and throughout the show, there was a sign language interpreter on the stage.

Hales encourages audience participation and even invites a couple of people from the front row to act out roles from the script and become part of the production. It’s a risky choice, depending on the audience’s attitude and willingness to play along. In the case of the opening night at Southbank, Hales hit the spot with the audience picked for participation – all 3 people looked like they were comfortable with their roles and enjoyed the experience.

The stage setup is a dynamic one – as the performance progresses, more chairs and tables are added, in front of a large screen. The setting is meant to resemble a diner, a classic meet up spot for Home and Away characters. Here, instead of a soap opera cast, we get to “hang out” with the performers, who are introduced to the audience one by one, they then take their seats and start drawing, writing, and sometimes – continuing the dialogue with Hales. This creates a space that respects the performers’ attitude and preferences. It’s clear that some of them are more comfortable being on the stage, while some others are more introverted. The open, freestyle form of just hanging out in a diner together felt very natural and candid for everyone on the stage. As a concept, I found it very respectful and open.

Credit: Toni Wilkinson

The show is successful in achieving a long-lasting impression – especially in breaking the stigma surrounding Down Syndrome, and what people with this diagnosis are like. One fact that will stayed with me after the performance is that 1 in 5 Australians is a person with a disability. Knowing that the level of representation on TV and in films does not exist, performances like You Know We Belong Together not only fill that gap but also deliver a fantastic, emotional but also funny experience for the audience.

You can catch You Know We Belong Together at the Edinburgh International Festival from 24th – 27th August. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply