Sophie Potter and her younger sister Emily had planned to stage a play at the Edinburgh Fringe that challenged stereotypes about Down’s syndrome. The play was based on their lived experiences growing up with a sibling with a learning disability. The sisters were selected by the Keep it Fringe Fund, which offers grants to performers facing financial and social barriers, to make their debut at the festival. However, due to technical problems and a lack of support, the sisters had to cancel their show after just one performance.
The play was intended to educate and entertain audiences about a subject that is rarely under the spotlight. Sophie and Emily had invested all of their money, including Sophie’s personal disability allowance, to make the show a reality. They had hoped to get their story across to the disabled community, to other people with Down’s syndrome, and to other siblings and family members who have experienced similar challenges.
The technical problems began when the sisters arrived at Just the Tonic Grassmarket for a technical rehearsal and discovered that the theatre space was double-booked. They then encountered various technical issues, including problems with the laptop not being compatible with the projector. Despite performing the show to a small audience, it was considered a tech run as none of the music or video worked.
The disruption had such an impact on Sophie that they decided to cancel the rest of the run. Venue operator Just The Tonic says the technical problems were down to an “unforeseen issue” involving incompatible equipment. A spokesman said he accepted that it was “not a good situation”, but that staff “tried to help”.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has expressed its disappointment and has offered support to Sophie and her team. Disability support charity Mencap has also expressed its disappointment and hopes that the sisters can get the show running again and take the play to London as they had hoped.
Sophie and Emily’s story highlights the need for greater support and accessibility in the arts for people with learning disabilities. Their bravery in sharing their unique story educates and reaches audiences about disability, and their experience should be used to continue developing support services for artists.