Side by Side Theatre Company Stourbridge

By Louise Rees

Side by Side
Side by Side Theatre Company Stourbridge, a company of learning disabled actors, many of whom have Down’s syndrome, are proud to have once again been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company to be part of their Open Stages project, breaking the mould of preconceived ideas about the achievements of learning disabled people. Side by Side actors and technical team have been working with the RSC at Stratford to make this year’s performance extra special!
Susan Wallin MBE, Side by Side’s Chairman and Artistic Director says she is thrilled and delighted that the RSC have chosen the group for the 2014/15 Open Stages project, “It is an honour and privilege and a triumph for inclusion!”
Side by Side have gained a wide reputation for exciting, unique and innovative theatre, produced and performed to professional standards. The actors all show incredible commitment and dedication to the work of the group. They love to entertain and are rightly proud of their many achievements in the world of mainstream theatre.
Side by Side are working on their new production, Illyria- 0n- Sea, based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The story tells of twins who get separated in a ship wreck and the confusions that occur when they get mistaken for one another. The setting is a 1950s sea-side resort, using dance, music, mime and dialogue to interpret the story with much colour and humour. Since they formed in 1997 the group have risen to new challenges every year and for this production the actors have a lot more dialogue, including tackling Shakespeare’s language. Every year the group, whose ages range from 18 to 55, gain new skills and increased confidence to produce wonderful, hugely entertaining shows.
Illyria- 0n- Sea will be performed at Stourbridge Town Hall from 25 -28 June 2014 and at Augustine’s, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 12- 16 August.  This will be Side by Side’s sixth time performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In August 2012 they performed “Dream On” to excellent reviews: “Simply Fantastic” “ A performance that—makes us feast with our hearts” ( Donald C. Stewart. Ed. Fest. Review)
As well as the touring company of 17 actors , the Side by Side family includes a very popular dance group, “Side Steps”, who meet every week in Stourbridge.
Side by Side are also running new classes for learning disabled people who love drama, dance and music, and might one day want to join the main group.