Young learning disabled take centre stage in new theatre programme

Young learning disabled people who want to work in theatre are a step closer to realising their dreams, after a new training programme launched in the capital.

By Jolene Campbell
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 6:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 6:03 pm

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Cutting Edge Theatre’s Young Company which offers opportunities for learning disabled young people aged 18-25 to learn their trade with theatre professionals has just started and already has a waiting list.

A pilot project funded by Creative Scotland, the company plans to offer a three-year programme to bridge the gap between leaving school and accessing further professional training. Young people will learn acting, movement, music and acting for camera amongst other skills.

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Young learning disabled train in new cutting edge theatre programme PIC: Colin Hattersley

Suzanne Lofthus, artistic director of Cutting Edge Theatre, says: “Currently, in Scotland, if a learning disabled young person wants to train as an actor with their peers and in a

supported environment which is tailored to their needs, that isn’t possible. When young people leave school, the opportunities fall away.

“Cutting Edge Young Company is about bridging that gap and enabling young people to go on potentially to access professional training in the performing arts.

“We have just started and already we have a waiting list. There are a lot of people out there who are keen to access the performing arts and not enough provision.”

In recent years, the profile of learning disabled actors has increased in theatre, film and television led by actors such as Sarah Gordy MBE and Liam Barstow (Alex Warner in

Coronation Street), and dramas such as BBC’s The A Word.

Cutting Edge Theatre created the highly acclaimed production Downs With Love in 2018, starring 24-year-old Abi Bryden, who has Down’s Syndrome, which toured throughout


Suzanne Lofthus says: “It’s about bringing a more positive representation of learning disabled people into the Arts. If we’re going to do that, we need more training

opportunities, and we need to see them on our screens and on our stages.

“The aim of the Young Company is to complement the great work being done in the Edinburgh area by other companies such as Lung Ha and to expand the opportunities for the young people to be part of the performing arts.”

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