Will having a learning disability impact on my success as a theatre professional?

There are many different types of disabilities people can have and these can be either physical or mental disabilities. One of these disabilities are learning disabilities which again can mean a number of different things.

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability affects the way a person learns new things throughout their lifetime. This can affect the way a person understands information and how they communicate. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability and it’s thought up to 350,000 people have a severe learning disability and this figure is increasing.

If you’d like to learn more about learning disabilities please see the NHS website for more information.

We interviewed Dominick Rutter from Bradford who is a training Actor and happens to have a learning disability. He is currently training in the Performance Academy at leading learning disability theatre company Mind the Gap. Dominick answered a few questions for us about his journey pursuing a career within the theatre industry with a learning disability.

What part of the theatre industry do you want to work in and why?

My biggest inspiration is Lee Evans, so I’ve always wanted to get into comedy. I don’t think I’d be very confident as a solo Comedian but I would love to be a part of an ensemble in a TV show like Phoenix Nights or Men Behaving Badly. Training on Mind the Gap’s Performance Academy course is helping me develop my skills in acting as part of a group.

Do you worry potential employers will view you differently when you apply for positions in the theatre industry?

I don’t know why they would as they wouldn’t know what I was capable of without meeting me. For me, everyone is equal, whether they have a disability or not and should be treated the same way. It’s not something I worry about to be honest.

FACT: All employers must follow the Equal Opportunities Policy in any industry. The Equal Opportunities Policy (EOP) are guidelines put in place to ensure an organisation commits to fairness amongst applicants for new jobs and existing staff members. Basically, if you apply for a job, the employer cannot discriminate against you for any reason and you will be treated equally like everyone else.

Do you think it is more difficult to pursue a career in the theatre industry when you have a learning disability?

I think it’s a difficult industry for anybody to get into really, but you need to be confident and keep trying, whatever your situation is.

What motivates you to pursue a career in the theatre industry?

I want to make something of my life. I want to do something that I’ve never done before and I like to challenge myself. The world of theatre and TV seems to be opening up for people with learning disabilities at the moment so it’s an exciting time; I want to be part of that. I’m inspired by people such as Liam Bairstow on Coronation Street and Lost Voice Guy, their success motivates me.

Do you think certain roles in theatre are for males and other roles are for females? For example, do you think one women should work in the costume department?

[Laughs] I don’t think so. If Gok Wan applied for a job in a costume department, I don’t think anyone would question his skills. If you want to work in a certain area in theatre, it shouldn’t matter who you are.

FACT: Job roles within the theatre industry are becoming more ‘gender neutral’ as one role is not deemed more for a woman and another more for a man. Women and men can pursue any role within the theatre industry as long as they are the right person for the role.

Do you think having a learning disability holds you back in any way?

Not at all! Nothing stops me from doing what I want to do. I don’t feel like I’ve faced barriers in my life because of my disability and I’m determined to achieve what I want out of life.

What advice would you give to someone similar to you who wants to get into the theatre industry?

Go for it, you just need to apply, what have you got to lose? You’ve only got one life and you’ve got to do what you want to do. If people think you can’t work in theatre, prove them wrong!

Do you think Get Into Theatre will help those who have learning disabilities?

I hope so. When I was looking for a course in acting for people with learning disabilities, I was lucky enough to live in Bradford and have heard of Mind the Gap. Hopefully Get Into Theatre will be useful for people all over the country to find courses that are right for them.

Take a look at our opportunities that are suitable for those with learning disabilities.



Photo: Mind The Gap

Published: 14 November 2019

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