Able2Do Anything: Music & Arts

New play opens in London starring disabled and autistic actors

poster advertising Imposter 22 showing a man's face formed on separate shreds of paper

A new play performed by disabled actors and cast members with autism is set up in London this weekend.

Imposter 22 has been five years in the making, now finally the public can see this ground-breaking show by award-winning playwright Molly Davies on the main stage at Royal Court in Sloane Square.

The theatre has worked alongside Access All Areas, which specialises in disabled people who have a burning ambition to be seen on stage.

Out of the eight actors in the ensemble, seven live with learning disabilities or autism who have taken up acting lessons at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

The play synopsis was the brainchild of Hamish Pirie, a neurodivergent associate director at the Royal Court, who also steps in the shoes of the show’s director. 

Charlene Salter makes up one of the cast members, they told The Guardian: “You don’t really see learning disabled and autistic people as role models on the stage and television. It is changing, but it needs to improve. There’s so much talent out there.”

Davies is no stranger to playwriting, in 2009 her debut show A Miracle at the Court opened to critical acclaim earning a 3 star review in The Telegraph.

She said the cast of Imposter 22 brought “constant ideas that fed the play. It made it very easy for me to write because I had everyone’s voices in my head. The process was joyful.

“There’s not a great deal of cultural representation of learning disabled people – but first and foremost I hope audiences enjoy the story and are entertained. And I hope they see that the experiences portrayed are both specific and universal.”

The plot highlights hurdles people with learning disabilities face on a regular basis, one scene at a jobcentre shows a character having difficulty finding a suitable career with little epiphany from the staff.

Davies said: “I’m thrilled with what I’ve seen. Every time a step up is required, the cast is there and ready. There’s no back-footedness. I have a real sense that this is the edge of something.”

Nick Llewellyn, artistic director of Access All Areas, believes, “learning disabled and autistic performers have not been represented on stage at this scale previously”.

He has seen a “huge drive in theatre and more recently television to centre disabled talent and to challenge ways of making theatre.

“But there’s still a long way to go. One of the biggest issues is training opportunities, and another is ensuring constant professional development. We’re looking to the industry to create more opportunities.

“Our stages really need to represent the UK, and historically they haven’t done so.”

Kirsty Adams plays Blossom in the production, she said the play has given her the chance to “show what we can do, and how well we can do it”.

The actress has appeared in a number of TV dramas, but this will be her first stage production.

She told The Guardian “I feel nervous, but also excited and empowered. I hope it leads to more jobs and more roles in the arts industry.”

[ Imposter 22 runs from 23rd September - 14th October at London’s Royal Court, you can book tickets from the thearte's website ]

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