Lily takes the lead

March 9, 2021

Actor Lily Harper is riding the wave of success in her first leading role and planning to do it all again in a Wellington season of Up Down Girl at Circa Theatre.

Up Down Girl is about a young woman with Down syndrome getting ready to leave home for the first time and her mother’s hilarious perspective on bringing her up.

Its first season at Palmerston North’s Globe Theatre last year sold out. “I felt great about that and I wanted to show the world that people with Down syndrome can do the same things that they can,” Lily says.

Lily, from Palmerston North, has a passion for performance and she believes it’s possible to change attitudes – “When you do something that you believe in, when you do a show and want to show people what you are capable of”.

She works hard to live in the character of 19-year-old Mattie, who likes to escape into a world of fantasy and superheroes rather than concentrate on packing her bags. Lily and stage mum Trudy Pearson dominate the show. They have developed a strong relationship, and each has been nominated for Best Female Actor in the Regional Theatre Awards. Lily has also been nominated for Emerging Performer.

Producer/Director Nathan Mudge says Lily immerses herself in her character – to the extent of calling Trudy ‘Mum’ on and off stage – and this provides depth and understanding to the performance. “The work that Lily does on stage is absolutely stunning because she will listen to songs that remind her of her character or watch DVDs that remind her of her character.”

Up Down Girl was originally written as Up Down Boy by British writer Sue Shields. Nathan adapted the play for a New Zealand context and interlaced it with songs, dances and drama skits.

The Wellington production will be fully accessible with audio description, sign interpretation and relaxed performances.

Lily urges everyone to come – “Because this is a message for everyone who was born different. Parents will be interested in this play because it’s a play about parents and a child”.

Up Down Girl is on from 20 April to 1 May at Circa Theatre, during the school holidays. For more information see

Caption: Lily Harper plays superhero Mattie in the leading role of Up Down Girl.