Anna Gray is an artist with learning-disabled theatre company Mind the Gap. She tells Giverny Masso about her latest role in Amanda Whittington’s Be My Baby at Leeds Playhouse
How did you get into theatre?
I started acting at my school, St. Aidan’s in Harrogate, and my mum found out about Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies, based in Bradford. In 2009, I started there on the Making Theatre course and four years later I was invited to be in the acting company and I have been there for 10 years. Now I am one of the Mind the Gap artists. I love it because it’s challenging and as an actor you get to do so many different things, including forum theatre, touring theatre and outdoor theatre.
Tell me about Be My Baby?
It’s about girls in a mother and baby home in the north of England in 1964. Girls were sent there to have their babies in secret. Norma is having a baby and it will be adopted. One of the other girls, Mary, wants to keep her baby and makes a phone call to someone in Eastbourne about a job. But these girls have to give up their babies whether they like it or not. I play Norma, who is 20 years old and is eight-months pregnant. I developed Norma’s character rehearsing it first at Mind the Gap and at home thinking about the script. Working with the other girls and their characters helped too.
What other productions have you done that you are particularly proud of?
Irresistible – I absolutely loved performing in that. It was a Mind the Gap show, co-directed by Jez Colborne, one of Mind the Gap’s artists, that we performed at the Southbank Centre in London. I was also a narrator of Stig of the Dump with Mind the Gap. We’ve made a version of Of Mice and Men as well. I’m proud of all of these. Recently, I have been involved with the Mind the Gap project, Daughters of Fortune, which explores learning disability and parenthood. I am so proud to be a part of this. Anna was the name of a piece of forum theatre I helped make in rehearsals and development. Mia was a show I toured with nationally and Zara was a large-scale outdoor performance where I played a radical protester, just a few weeks ago.
Do you think there are enough opportunities for learning disabled artists in theatre?
There should be more opportunities for disabled people. More acting roles in performances such as Be My Baby. I have seen people with disabilities on TV, such as the Lost Voice Guy [Lee Ridley] on Britain’s Got Talent and I can catch up with other shows online, but I don’t see people with learning disabilities on stage much.
What are your future career ambitions?
I’d like to do more acting roles and dancing too. I’d like to learn to sing for fun, but also for shows.
Agent: Charlotte Armitage at Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting
Training: Making Theatre course with Mind the Gap (2009-2012), Mind the Gap acting company (2012-2016)
First professional role: A punk princess in Mind the Gap’s Irresistible at Southbank Centre in London (2012)
Be My Baby runs at Leeds Playhouse until June 1. More information is available here.