Tackling the 'better dead than disabled' attitude

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:59:53 AM. A man with cerebral palsy whose mother was told he was better off dead is about to take the stage to celebrate life.

Glenn Turnbull Photo: Glenn Turnbull's journey shows what it means to be different in today's society. (Supplied: Chrysalis)

A man whose mother was told he was better off dead is about to take the stage to celebrate life.

The difficulties Glenn Turnbull encountered in receiving medical attention has inspired the play Chrysalis, showing at the Sydney Opera House this month.

Turnbull was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months of age. Now in his 40s, he feels shunned when he is admitted to hospital in severe pain.

"[Recently] he was in and out of hospital six times in 14 months desperately trying to get to the bottom of it," his mother Moira Turnbull said.

"Last year we said we are not leaving until the tests are done. There is something radically wrong with him. But even then they were baulking at it."

NIDA lecturer Stephen Sewell, one of the writers of Chrysalis, said Turnbull's experience was naturally dramatic.

"To be told in your presence that you have no right to live or [you're] better off dead is pretty bracing," he said.

Rehearsals for Chrysalis Photo: The play is inspired by true events in the lives of the cast. (ABC News: David Spicer)

Co-writer Emily Dash said the attitude of "better dead than disabled" has been experienced by other members of the theatre company.

She said the message of the play was: "My life does have meaning. And is important and should be valued just like anybody else."

The 60-minute performance is a mixture of drama, song and choreography, mixing professional actors with actors with severe impairments.

Despite the serious subject matter, the play, set in a rubbish dump, exudes joy.

"They are all natural show-offs," Sewell said.

"They have a great sense of fun and sense of humour."

The drama touches on medical politics and sexuality.

"We look at intimacy and the fact that people with disabilities are sexual beings and do have desires," Dash said.

Chrysalis will have a three-show run between November 16 and 17.

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