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Play Examines Life of Man With Down Syndrome After Losing a Parent

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Actor Nathan Bessell starred in the hit 2010 theatrical production, “Up Down Boy,” which chronicled the life of Matty Butler, a young man with Down syndrome. Now Bessell and the rest of the production team are ready to premiere the sequel, “Up Down Man,” which examines Butler’s life 10 years later, following the death of his mother.

Sue Shields, Bessell’s mother, wrote the first play, and director Brendan Murray is behind the sequel, a “funny, provocative [and] moving [show that] could change the way you see the world,” according to the Myrtle Theatre Company’s website.

The Myrtle Theatre Company teamed up with the Salisbury Playhouse in England to present the production, which is told from Matty’s point of view using a combination of dialogue, original music and dance, according to the Salisbury Journal. According to a synopsis on the theater company’s website, “’Up Down Man’ asks the question that faces every parent of an adult with a learning disability… What will happen when I’m not here?”

What does the fox say…..? Happy Birthday Nathan! Posted by Myrtle Theatre Company on Sunday, February 21, 2016


Heather Williams stars as Matty’s mother Odette, and she chatted with the Salisbury Journal about the message behind it:

Matty has lost the significant person in his life but it then gives way for what now, what does he want, what does the family want for him, what did his mother want and how do all those concepts differ. People really expressed an interest in knowing what happened next. There were a lot of families that have children or adults with Down syndrome that came and saw it and it spoke to them. It spoke to the general public and really changed their perceptions.


Nathan Bessell and Vic Llewellyn in rehearsals for Up Down Man at Salisbury Playhouse (Credit Laura Jane Dale)

Posted by Salisbury Playhouse – Official on Friday, February 12, 2016

Nathan Bessell works with Choreographer and Dancer Bryn Thomas. UP DOWN MAN runs in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse from 24th February to 12th March 2016. Photos by Laura Jane Dale. Posted by Salisbury Playhouse – Official on Tuesday, February 16, 2016


In a video posted on Myrtle Theatre Company’s Facebook page, Williams explains that Bessell was involved in the development process from start to finish. “Nathan showed us through dance and through speech and through directing a few bits and pieces the kind of themes he’d like in the play,” she said.

“Up Down Man” is running through March 12. For ticketing information visit the Salisbury Playhouse’s website.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

Originally published: February 24, 2016
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