Julia Hales has watched every episode of Home and Away since it first aired in 1988, but she noticed the long-term cast never featured anyone with Down syndrome.
The realisation inspired her to co-write a play, You Know We Belong Together, set in the show's famous Summer Bay diner and with a name inspired by the long-running soap's theme song.
The work is set to premier at the Sydney Opera House in September and stars the Perth woman and six other actors with Down syndrome.
"It started off from my dreams of being on Home and Away and it's also about acceptance and belonging and relationships - and karaoke," Hales told AAP.
She said it explores how people with disabilities can be treated as "other", in contrast to the attitude of her own mother who told her never to give up on her dreams.
"She knew that I was very talented, and she knew I wanted to be in Home and Away - she just told me to go for it."
You Know We Belong Together took about five months for Hales to write with playwright Finn O'Branagain and director Clare Watson.
The production even travelled to Summer Bay to film with Ray Meagher, who plays Home and Away character Alf Stewart, for a video segment of the performance.
Watson told AAP that filming Hales walking with "Alf" on the pier at Summer Bay was an emotional moment.
"I found myself with like tears running down my face, I was like, this is a career highlight, it was amazing," she said.
The show first played to acclaim at the Perth Festival in 2018, before a sold-out season with WA's Black Swan State Theatre Company in 2019. There are also plans to take the performance to the Edinburgh Festival and London.
However, the cast is especially delighted to be staging the production in the Opera House - in part because it's close to the Palm Beach setting of the fictional Summer Bay, Watson said.
But it also firmly positions the work as that of serious artists.
"It feels like the most prestigious venue in the world because of the idea of the Opera House, it's the pinnacle of culture in Australia," she said.
You Know We Belong Together will be at the Drama Theatre from September 6-10.
Australian Associated Press
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