Comedy depicts family living with a disability, writes Claire Brine
WHEN your nine-year-old learning-disabled daughter can’t talk, it seems nigh on impossible to work out what she wants. That’s the difficulty facing parents Simon and Emily in the BBC Four comedy drama There She Goes, which continues next Tuesday (30 October).
It’s a pretty normal day. So for a little treat, Simon (David Tennant) and Emily (Jessica Hynes) decide to take their two kids swimming. They know that Rosie (Miley Locke) loves the water. That is, until she decides she doesn’t. While Simon is trying to wrestle Rosie into the pool, other parents cast sideways glances, wondering what on earth all the fuss is about. It becomes a stressful experience.
As soon as Simon manages to coax Rosie into the water, her restless behaviour tells him that she wants to get out. So the family cut short the swimming trip and decide to head home. As they drive, Mum is racking her brains. If Rosie doesn’t want to swim, what does she want?
Later that evening, Simon and Emily are discussing their daughter and her rare, undiagnosed condition. Emily wonders if they should agree to some more chromosomal tests, saying: ‘It would be good to get some answers.’
After all, answers are what Emily has always wanted. In a flashback scene which reflects on the time when Rosie was a baby, a conversation unfolds in which Emily blurts out to Simon: ‘I just want to know that one day there will be something I can solve.’
But as any parent of a disabled child will know, sometimes there are no answers – or certainly few satisfactory ones. Series writer Shaun Pye can vouch for that. He wrote the series based on his own family’s experiences.
‘There are billions of different chromosomal disorders and we don’t even know which one my daughter has,’ he says. ‘All I can do is tell my story as truthfully as I can.’
While Shaun recognises that some scenes in the series may surprise viewers, he is hoping that a bit of brutal honesty will bring comfort to those who are walking in similar shoes. In particular, he hopes the flashback scenes – exploring Simon and Emily’s inner struggles as they come to terms with baby Rosie’s disability – will send out the message that ‘it’s OK to think these things’.
Actor David Tennant agrees. One of the key factors attracting him to the project was the opportunity it presented to open up conversations around disability and family life.
‘It is really good that as a society we just remember all the people who are under-represented,’ he says.
It’s an important point to make. Television may not always show it, but society is full of people with all kinds of backgrounds and difficulties. Some have disabilities or mental health problems. Some come from unconventional families. Some have phobias or addictions that affect their daily life. Everyone has something less than perfect about them.
Whatever our story, there is good news – and it’s open to everyone, regardless of their circumstances.
In the Bible, Jesus says: ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to me’ (John 6:37 Good News Bible).
However complicated life can seem, Jesus’ love for us really isn’t.
Whoever we are, and whatever state we find ourselves in, we are always invited to turn to him. He will accept our differences, and give us hope for the less than perfect parts of our character. When it comes to knowing Jesus and receiving his love, everyone is able. Everyone is welcome.
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