Doing Difference Differently


Open Theatre has been developing work with Young People with Learning Disabilities (YPWLD) through non-verbal physical theatre for over 30 years and we're just getting started.

Our History

Open Theatre has been developing work with young people with learning disabilities through non-verbal physical theatre for over 30 years (since 1984). We’ve gone through many names, projects and programmes over the years – beginning with the Shysters, a Coventry-based ensemble of actors with learning disabilities, through to organising conferences, school programmes, mass public performances and research initiatives. At the heart of our practice has always been a commitment to develop, promote and sustain the creativity and artistry of people with learning disabilities.

Our Methodology

We use non-verbal physical theatre to explore young people’s creativity. We work with the same young people over months, sometimes years, leading to a positive impact on learning outcomes, capacity to learn, confidence and sense of self, and the roles they can play in the world.

Non-verbal Physical Theatre involves play, simple props, music and movement. It’s a highly adaptive and individual process, and we work with a small pool of specially trained facilitators. You can read more about our methodology here.

Our work draws on contemporary conversations about the nature of disability, difference and creativity.  We consider our work inspired by The Social Model of Disability, The Holistic Model of Learning Disability, Clowning, and Intense Interaction. We’ve arrived somewhere slightly different, but hopefully still somewhere useful.

Our Future

Our vision is to make the West Midlands a centre of best practice and excellence for YPWLD, enabling them to access and make meaningful creative contributions to the cultural life of the region and beyond and become the artists, leaders, facilitators and enablers of the future.

In response to COVID-19, our work has shifted to a place-based approach, delivering non-verbal physical theatre interventions in local communities, towns and green spaces.  We want young people with learning disabilities to have opportunities to engage in the arts and meet, share, create, talk and support each other with a focus of integration within their local communities. We want to empower families and their communities to take on crucial roles in supporting this change, breaking down barriers to achieve true connection and integration.

OTC creates compelling productions that celebrate the diverse imagination of their participants and develops projects that allow that creativity to be challenged and to flourish. Their drive to improve the quality of opportunities available to and the quality of work created with people with learning disabilities is powerful, contagious and has been profoundly effective.

Kate DeRight

Director, Spectra

If you would like to find out more about us or the programmes we run, get in touch, or better still…