Did you know that, in Ireland, if you are an adult with an intellectual disability it is illegal to have sex unless you are married? I will admit that I was unaware of this until I went to see Sanctuary, the remarkable new play from the Blue Teapot company.
Blue Teapot's stated mission is 'to effect a positive change in public consciousness concerning people with intellectual disability through the medium of theatre by allowing our members' inherent talent and creativity to speak for itself.' It is hard to say, without resorting to hyperbole, how successfully Sanctuary achieves this.
Christian O'Reilly's measured script gradually moves from humour to pathos, while Petal Pilley's direction allows her cast to shine. On a cinema trip with people from their training centre, Larry (Kieran Coppinger) and Sophie (Charlene Kelly) sneak off to a hotel room, aided by their conflicted carer Tom (Robert Doherty). It's their first time alone together. One of Larry's questions to Sophie begins with the words 'if we were normal...'
Normal - what an absurd concept, really. But for the characters in Sanctuary it encapsulates things like intimacy, freedom and privacy - none of which they have. The frustration Larry and Sophie feel is palpable - Sanctuary asks the audience : if this was your life, how would you feel?
But this is not a play that is delivered from a soapbox. It's a show of rare warmth, genuine humanity - and a whole lot of laughs. Frank Butcher and Paul Connolly bring an infectious delight to their portrayal of mischief makers William and Matthew. Playing the lovestruck Sandy, Emer Macken creates a character you can't help rooting for.
It falls to Patrick Becker to voice the rage that is quietly brewing during the play. Playing the jilted Andrew, Becker brilliantly captures the utter lack of power his character feels. Why can't he be loved too? Why can't he have the life he wants? How can he be held back from striving towards happiness?