When I began my career as a young actor with autism, I was – without knowing it – shy, scared and ashamed. Not of who I am, but how I am.
My experiences navigating the shape of the industry, the advice of people higher up, and the opinions of those I deemed to know better all left me with a lingering impression: to even have a shot at fitting within that shape, I had to change everything about myself. I felt my neuro-divergence as something I needed to conceal in my professional life, bury from public view and, worst of all, hide from myself.
But then I tried something else.
Writing about growing up with autism helped me be more honest with myself, positive about who I am, and when I performed my first play, the floodgates blasted open. I discovered a new landscape; an exciting movement where d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists were expressing themselves and receiving platforms they previously hadn’t had.
Last year I attended the launch of Jack Thorne’s ‘Underlying Health Condition’ campaign. Its drive to create more accessibility and opportunity for disabled people in television was beyond inspiring. My hope is that its ripples will also exact real change in theatre; not just with more disabled narratives or representation, but championing disabled artists to tell whatever stories they want.
The potential for change was riveting, but partaking in Wellspring galvanised me even further.
From the start, it was such a welcoming, supportive, and creatively enriching environment. I learned lots, from tutors and fellow participants alike, about idea generating, structure, disability theory and more. I’m grateful for every gathering, and for me the highlight was the weekend writing Lock-in. With Simon Startin’s mentorship, having the designated time to build the world of my piece was exhilarating.
The play I’m developing explores the relationship between class and having children. It follows a couple with differing class backgrounds who, after being outed at their engagement party that they want a childfree marriage, are tested on everything they value by their families…cue the juicy tension! I’m also currently on the BBC Doctors Scheme, reworking my play Turnip (a sci-fi rom-com), and soon filming a sitcom set in a cult!
I know what it’s like to be daunted about professional development: but for anyone searching for non-stressful ways about it, I can promise you they exist. Firstly, there’s writing workshops: Wildcard Theatre and DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community) have great accessible programmes with amazing people at low/no cost. You can approach theatres or companies whose aims and work you admire, and see if they have schemes you can join (most people tend to be nice by the way). And lastly, I’d recommend checking the BBC Writersroom website and the DANC newsletter. Both list great opportunities…including this one!
I’m incredibly thankful to Vital Xposure for this whole experience. It’s given me more confidence in my abilities, lots of tools, empowerment as a writer, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds!
Robbie Curran, Wellspring Writer 2021 – 2022
Robbie is an actor and writer from Walthamstow. After training at the Oxford School of Drama, he has worked in Shakespeare, new writing and TV, performing his writing debut ‘Thomas’ at VAULT Festival 2019. He has also partaken in Soho Theatre Writers Lab and BBC Writersroom’s Writers Access Group.
Wellspring is Vital Xposure’s professional development programme for London-based disabled, d/Deaf and neurodivergent playwrights and script writers, funded by City Bridge Trust and delivered in partnership with Paines Plough, Bush theatre, Theatre 503 and Hampstead Theatre.