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> > > Growing Up Downs: Blue Apple Theatre documentary on BBC 3

6 February 2014

By Colin Hambrook

Blue Apple receive a standing ovation at the Rose Theatre, London

Last night BBC Three aired a documentary telling the story of how Blue Apple Theatre took a touring production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to 12 mainstream theatres across the south of England playing to an audience of over 3,000 people from April - July 2012.

In May 2013 Jane Jessop, the founding director of Blue Apple Theatre, spoke to Dao's Sheila McWattie about her ambitions for the theatre company. At the time they were raising awareness of disability hate crime through a devised dance/ theatre piece called Living WIthout Fear, which the company were in the process of taking  to the Houses of Parliament.

The staggering statistic is that 90% of people with learning difficulties are bullied or harassed every year. For people with learning difficulties finding ways of raising self-esteem and dealing with bullying behaviour is clearly vital.

'Growing Up Downs', made by the brother of Blue Apple actor Tommy Jessop tells the story of how the companies troupe of young actors with Down's Syndrome, came to take on the challenge of creating a touring production of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

With all its major themes of love, betrayal, moral corruption and revenge, it's clear from the start of the documentary that the company are taking a huge risk. They don't know if they can get to grips with Shakespeare's language and make a success of the play. However, the main body of the company have an iron will commitment and as one of the key actors Laurie goads the troupe into action, you feel certain that they are going to put their heart and souls into it and at least have a good try.

One of the key issues is how do you deal with the fact that your on and off-stage lover is destined to kill you. The documentary shows the members of the company vying to make plot changes, going through angst and break down to make decisions as their personal and professional lives blur. 

It's a compelling documentary made with honesty and integrity that gives a truly refreshing slice of life in the world of learning disability arts.

The film is now available on the BBC i-player for a limited time. Please click on this link to BBC 3 and catch it while you can!

The next performance of Blue Apple Theatre's powerful, challenging response to disability hate crime Living Without Fear will be on Wednesday 26th March in Westminster Cathedral at 8pm, doors open 7:15pm. For information, including details of the forthcoming production of ‘Tales from the Arabian Nights’, please click on this link to go to Blue Apple Theatre's website.


Colin Hambrook

13 February 2014

I've had discussions with others who thought the documentary "patronising" in its portrayal. I came away from the conversation feeling I'd watched a completely different programme. I thought the portrayal did show the cast as committed actors, supporting each other to get to grips with the play and learn their lines, making decisions about the script and which bits of the story to include. Maybe I should watch it again… from the feedback I've had so far it seems I was very wrong.

Jo Verrent

12 February 2014

Not sure I found it "truly refreshing" - I found it quite irritating on a number of levels as I wanted to see more about them as actors, rather than as characters. I wanted to know about their training, the performance skills they gained, about staging choices and decisions, and more about audience reaction beyond simply 'that was lovely.'

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