Lung Ha hit 40

Apr 30 2024 | By | Reply More

Cue 12 months of celebration and innovation!

Lung Ha, Edinburgh’s award-winning professional company for actors and theatre makers who are autistic or learning-disabled, is marking its 40th anniversary with 12 months of celebrations.

Initial events include the remount of 2021’s An Unexpected Hiccup at EdFringe 2024, the inaugural production of a new touring company. A new short film Love Like Salt will premiere at the Traverse in May. Also in May, Lung Ha will contribute to an international conference on inclusion, hosting a session on the subject of de-institutionalisation.

The company is also commissioning initial research to develop an Access and Creative Principles Toolkit which will support the launch of the Lung Ha Touring Company. And over the whole year, the company will be spotlighting each of the 25 current members of the ensemble with photo portraits by long-time collaborator Peter Dibdin.

The Lung Ha ensemble in April 2024. Pic: Peter Dibdin

Lung Ha Theatre Company began its life in October 1984 when a 60-strong group came together to stage a community production, Lung Ha’s Monkey, based on the cult Japanese television series Monkey, itself based on a 16th century Chinese novel.

The one-off show was directed and organised by Richard Vallis and Pete Clerke, who had both previously worked with disabled support services. They pooled their contacts to bring a company together, initially calling it “Lung Ha’s Monkey Theatre”, for what was intended to be a one-off production.

The show ran for three nights at Wilkie House on the Cowgate and a was sell-out success. One quick name update later and the face of Scottish theatre was changed as a vital new theatrical voice was launched onto the Scottish stage.

International touring

Since then, Lung Ha has worked with more than 300 performers with a learning disability, creating over 40 original productions. It has created work in association with some of Scotland’s leading artists and creative organisations and toured internationally to England, France, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and Finland.

Recent successes have led to two best ensemble awards at the CATS (Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland). The first in 2009 for Huxley’s Lab, a co-production with Grid Iron Theatre Company; the second last year in 2003, for Castle Lennox, a co-production with the Lyceum (Æ review: ★★★★☆ Huge humanity)

The Castle Lennox cast. Pic Peter Dibdin

It is this last award, for Castle Lennox, which led the company to be invited as a guest contributor at the Europe In Action Conference, a partnership between Inclusion Europe and Enable, in May 2024 in Glasgow during Learning Disability Awareness Week.

The play draws on the shocking history of the real Lennox Castle home for people with learning disabilities, whose overcrowded and often brutal regime from the 1930s to 1990s was more akin to a prison than a hospital. Lung Ha will use that as a starting point for their hosting of the closing session of the conference with the theme of deinstitutionalisation.

Love Like Salt is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, featuring the Lung Ha Ensemble and co-created by Maria Oller, Susan Worsfold and Stuart Platt. The evening at the Traverse will also feature a short snippet from an anniversary documentary about the company made and edited by a Lung Ha actor, Emma McCaffrey.

An Unexpected Hiccup

The remount of the company’s 2021 hit An Unexpected Hiccup at the Fringe will have dates from Friday 2 to Saturday 10 August at Zoo Southside. A co-production with Plutôt La Vie, it features five Lung Ha actors and is written by Michael Duke after a devising process with the company.

Originally created and performed under strict COVID procedures during the global pandemic, the show is a tale of comic misunderstandings, sinister goings on and dangerous eccentricities when a lost hiker goes to a lonely old house where they are mistaken for a long-lost half-brother, come to claim his inheritance.

Emma McCaffrey, Gavin Yule, Ryan Duncan, Tim Licata (foreground), Keith Watson, Emma Clark and Nicola Tuxworth in An Unexpected Hiccup. Pic: Peter Dibdin.

This will also be the inaugural production of the Lung Ha Touring Company which will provide further opportunities for performers to create and tour new and existing work, with bespoke and specialist actor training.

To support the launch of Lung Ha Touring Company, the company is also commissioning initial research to develop an Access and Creative Principles Toolkit. The research aims to cover three main areas:

  • To understand the access support structures required for learning-disabled actors in a professional company.
  • To apply fair and equitable pay remuneration frameworks for ourselves and other theatre companies working with actors and artists in receipt of varied and complex benefit arrangements.
  • To create a practical toolkit for working with learning-disabled actors which has a wider culture sector benefit and application.

The first publication of findings is expected in spring 2025. The project is funded by RS Macdonald Charitable Trust.

spotlight

Throughout the year, Lung Ha will be spotlighting its ensemble of actors using commissioned portraits from photographer and long-time collaborator Peter Dibdin, taken during a glamorous photoshoot extravaganza themed as “Met gala meets night at the theatre”.

The actors curated their own costumes and threw themselves into model poses and characterful performances which are captured in this series and in the commemorative 40th anniversary Ensemble group photograph.

Artistic Director Maria Oller and Executive Director Ruth McEwan said: “Entering our 40th year, we are so proud of our achievements and what has come before now. We have shared incredible moments with everyone we work with and our audiences far and wide.

“From here, we are passionate about continuing to create fabulous theatrical experiences and breaking down barriers in our sector and beyond. Our actors are the inspiration and the beating heart of Lung Ha Theatre Company.”

Links:

Lung Ha website: https://www.lungha.com
Lung Ha Facebook: @lunghas
Lung Ha Instagram: @lunghatheatre
Lung Ha X: @lunghastheatre
Lung Ha YouTube: @lunghatheatrecompany3074

Lung Ha at 40 Logo

ENDS

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