And not just ours
At Separate Doors we’re privileged to work with exceptional talent in our National Ensemble of actors with, and without, learning disabilities. We audition individuals and we also cast from excellent learning-disability focused companies across the UK.
We’re employing over 25 freelance creatives and core team members on our latest project ‘Directing Tomorrow’s Theatre.‘ Over 60 per cent of us are disabled and some of us are cancer survivors, people with long term health issues and/or caring responsibilities. Our Advisory Board of learning disabled and neurodivergent actors guides our work and we’re always developing ways to support well-being. We aim for fairness for all and we pay fairly.
All good companies with a learning disability focus have a similar management shape and way of working and there are many of these good companies.
Access All Areas, Mind The Gap and Unanima were recently rewarded with Arts Council National Portfolio (NPO) funding and organisations such as Graeae have recently expanded their work with neurodivergent artists.
Learning disability and neurodivergency are not always different things, but they can be.
A note about the word neurodivergency
Neurodivergency can be used as a descriptor for people with moderate learning disabilities such as Downs Syndrome and for people who need high levels of support in their daily lives.
Neurodivergency can also be used as a descriptor for people who are independent and have fewer support needs to work and live. This can include people who have autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and mental health issues.
How Separate Doors is a bit different
Our focus is on the collaborative theatre making creative process and especially on the craft of acting, rather than access (although access is vital, we’re a theatre company and not a campaigning organisation).
Secondly, our work is integrated. This means that we work with creatives with, and creatives without learning disabilities. We work as an ensemble in the rehearsal room. This means we all follow the same largely non-verbal process together, the Silent Approach. Its a collaborative process for all, whatever an actors cognitive or linguistic ability.
Our third area of difference is the kind of work we explore and share. We focus on narrative theatre, on stories and on actors as characters who deliver stories to audiences. We also work with writers and with plays.
Recent advances and things to celebrate
We work with partner organisations including Derby Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Level Centre, Theatre 503 and supportive individuals including Michele Taylor MBE. Recently quoted in the Guardian, Michele spoke of the ‘bloom’ in work featuring neurodivergent actors. Writers too – the next Ramps On The Moon play Village Idiot is penned by neurodivergent writer Samson Hawkins. Much has been written about the punch of recent works from companies such as Not My Circus Dog and the stellar performances of Sarah Gordy and Leon Harrop in Ralph and Katie (BBC1). In the theatre sector there are powerful disability rights voices making sure that long overdue disability representation increases
but let’s not forget
the ensemble driven companies who work with actors with moderate learning disabilities. Companies such as our allies Dark Horse and Hubbub Theatre who train and produce work with actors with actors with challenges around speech and literacy – giving a unique opportunity to artists who can struggle to self advocate, agitate for change and project manage.
Leeds Playhouse and Ramps on the Moon had a recent success with the large integrated cast of Oliver. How good would be it be if these integrated productions happened once again beyond the larger companies and initiatives?
Aside from the intrinsic values of high quality integrated ensemble work, the integrated ensemble model supports excellent learning for all creatives, disabled and non-disabled.
At Separate Doors our aim is for integrated casts of all kinds of actors to deliver to general audiences in theatres all over the UK, as part of the general programme. The companies with integrated ensembles at their centre are a very good way of making that aim a reality.