Galway actors open up on sex and disability for RTÉ

Members of Galway’s Blue Teapot Company feature in a new documentary exploring love, sex and disability, which will be screened on RTÉ television next Monday night, February 17 at 9.35pm.

Somebody to Love takes viewers into the romantic lives of people with physical or intellectual disabilities, people who are often overlooked when it comes to love, sex and relationships. The documentary points out that sexuality is not only about attraction or about the act of sex. It’s about self-esteem, gender and body awareness, as well as relationships. 

It opens with actors Kieran Coppinger (33), and Charlene Kelly (29), in scenes from Blue Teapot’s award-winning play, Sanctuary, a drama that challenged a little-known law which governs the sex lives of the intellectually disabled.

Blue Teapot is made up of actors with intellectual disabilities and in Sanctuary, written by Christian O’Reilly, they explore what happens when two people with intellectual disabilities want to spend a few hours alone together in a hotel room. The play, directed by Petal Pilley, premiered at Galway Theatre Festival before going on to play Galway Arts Festival and Dublin Fringe Festival.

Somebody to Love captures the cast in rehearsals, discussing the play’s themes and how these affect their lives, while Kieran and Charlene also invite the audience into their homes. Kieran lives with his elderly parents and Charlene lives in a group home with support staff.

Somebody to Love also tells the story of Dubliner Mandy Finlay (40) who has Down’s Syndrome. Mandy has always had a boyfriend and her mother, Frieda, has been campaigning on capacity and decision-making laws for over 20 years. She believes in Mandy’s right to romance.

Meanwhile, Ciara Staunton (27) from Wicklow, had an accident in her early twenties and after a period of re-adjustment, is now back in the dating world. Ciara, a member of the wheelchair rugby team of Ireland, describes the experience of sexual rediscovery as a second puberty.

Other contributors include Offaly couple Sarah and John Paul Fitzgerald who have been together for 14 years. Both work, enjoy independent lives and have cerebral palsy. Recently married, they have a young child. They don’t see themselves as different from any other Irish family, but that’s not always how they are treated.

• Somebody to Love is directed by Anna Rodgers and produced by Zlata Filipovic, and will be screened at 9.35 on RTÉ 1 television on Monday night.