Illyria LDT playA theatre company of actors with learning disabilities has been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to be part of its Open Stages project, in what has been described as "a triumph for inclusion".

Side by Side Theatre Company Stourbridge will work with the RSC on its new production, Illyria-On-Sea, which is based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Susan Wallin MBE, Side by Side’s artistic director, said she is delighted that the RSC has chosen the group for the 2014/15 Open Stages project, describing it as "an honour and privilege".

Illyria-On-Sea will be performed at Stourbridge Town Hall from June 25-28. It will also be seen at Augustine’s in Edinburgh from August 12-16 – which will be Side by Side’s sixth time performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

UK's biggest amateur theatre project
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 seaside resort, using dance, music, mime and dialogue to interpret the story, and will incorporate more dialogue than Side by Side's actors have previously taken on.

To help with this, the group has employed several professional practitioners, including seaside entertainment expert Tony Lidington; Rosie Rushton from Melody Music Birmingham, who is composing music and working with the group on percussion and Sam Davies, a professional actor, who is teaching stage combat.

Further reading: Theatre show for teenagers with PMLD to go on national tour

The RSC’s Open Stages is the UK’s biggest amateur theatre project. Having received more than 150 applications, the RSC, along with six partner theatres, are now working with the 90 selected amateur groups to support and help them to create their own RSC Open Stages production in their own venue.

Each of the amateur companies is receiving training, director mentoring, feedback and support with the aim of transforming the relationship between amateur and professional theatre.

As part of their training, several of the Side by Side actors will take part in theatre skills days on 29-30 March, while the RSC will also host technical training sessions for lighting, sound and set design and construction.

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