Open Clasp Theatre Company will release Us Too: Alisha’s Story online on Saturday 3 December, the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The piece was co-created with women with learning disabilities who have experience of reporting sexual assault and domestic violence to the police,
Research shows that people with learning disabilities are at higher risk of sexual abuse, that women with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable, and when women with learning disabilities report sexual violence to the police, their reports are less likely to result in a conviction. Durham University, with Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland, and Northumbria Police, also found that the criminal justice system creates barriers to justice for people with learning disabilities or autism when reporting rape and sexual assault.
Commissioned by Durham University and Sunderland University, Us Too: Alisha‘s Story was co-created by Open Clasp Theatre Company and women from Us Too, a group with learning disabilities, autism or both who have experienced domestic abuse. The women were supported by the Association for Real Change (ARC UK), a national charity supporting providers of Learning Disability and Autism services.
Holly Wilkinson plays Alisha in her first professional acting role. A brain injury survivor with autism, Holly says:
“I responded to the casting call for disabled actors because I don’t think that there is enough representation of disabled performers within the acting industry, which is something that really needs to change in my view. Performers with disabilities need to be seen and heard! Meeting the women from the ARC #UsToo group was powerful and very emotional; they should be applauded for their courage and resilience in the face of massive injustice and adversity. They raised their voices and made themselves heard through the power of theatre and film. It is really exciting to be a part of this journey and really humbling to think that this film will go on to help other women and girls in similar situations.”
The play is written by Julie Tsang whose work reflects themes on mixed heritage, identity, loss and family conflict. Julie said:”
I feel very privileged to have worked with the Us Too group which led to the collaborative creation of ‘Alisha’s Story’.”
Director Katja Roberts says:
“It’s emotional. It makes you rage but also, I just feel huge admiration for the women, the way it was combined by Julie (the writer) into a singular voice, a collective story told in such a powerful way and for Holly (the actor) to carry it. I have hope and excitement about what change it’s going to bring.”
One of the co-creators from Us Too added:
“I feel strong and empowered that we are helping other women.”
Open Clasp Theatre
Driven by a passionate belief that theatre can bring about social change, Catrina McHugh co-founded Open Clasp in 1998. The company places theatre at the heart of transforming the lives of women and girls, collaborating with women and young women excluded by theatre and society to create bold and urgent theatre for personal, social and political change.
Co-lead researcher Dr Helen Williams says:
“It’s hard hitting because it is truth, that story is truth. I feel bonded to the women it’s a special sort of bravery to speak those words. It’s been a privilege.”
Watch Us Too: Alisha’s Story online from 3-10 December, 2022. British Sign Language and subtitles are available. Book tickets at www.openclasp.org.uk