Changing perceptions and increasing opportunities

One of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies, Hijinx, is continuing to drive forward the important message of the creative industries working inclusively in Wales and beyond, with more actors with learning disabilities and autism represented and visible on screen. 

Over the next few weeks some of Hijinx’s actors will be seen on stage and screen, including one actor, Justin Melluish, taking a lead role in the hit BBC One Wales drama, Hidden.  

This will be the final instalment of the series of Hidden, where DCI Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams) and DS Owen Vaughan (Siôn Alun Davies) return to BBC One Wales and BBC Four. Justin will play, Glyn, who is the brother of a local labourer Siôn Thomas (played by Sion Ifan).  

Hidden production company, Seven Screen, S4C and BBC Wales worked collaboratively in partnership with Hijinx. Seven Screen, producer Hannah Thomas said, 

Working with Hijinx gave us an opportunity to review our practices, to think how we work and be more inclusive, which we will be taking forward into other productions.  Justin is an incredibly talented actor and working with Hijinx through the casting process made us aware of the breadth of talent available and I hope other producers will consider their approach.” 

This is the first leading TV role for Justin.

It was a great experience to meet the cast and crew. They are lovely people to work with and I bonded with my brother Sion in the series.” 

Justin Melluish - Hijinx Actor

While Justin Melluish will be seen on BBC, this calendar year alone, many of Hijinx actors are auditioning for other television roles.

“14 of our actors have auditioned for prime-time television roles, large-scale theatre productions and ground-breaking virtual reality projects. The remainder of the year is set to be a busy one for the talented Hijinx Actors."

Ellen Groves - Head of Business Development, Hijinx

Hijinx’s pioneering training programme has made significant changes to the perception of how actors with learning disabilities and/or autism are seen on stage, screen and in the community. In its recent Social Impact Report, researchers had found that Hijinx had changed the way the creative industries operated since 2019.  

  • 90% of the creative people working with Hijinx said that they were more inclusive and have change the way that they work.  
  • Hijinx also generated £119,000 in value of skills and opportunities for actors, staff and partners. 

As part of their ambition to increase representation of learning disabled and/or autistic people on stage and screen, Hijinx are in the process of developing a range of support services for the screen sector to help productions to work more inclusively.  

Supported by Clwstwr, the Inclusive Film project is working with production companies around Wales, including Severn Screen, to research and develop training for people working on productions to communicate more effectively, alongside consultancy support, to drive more inclusive ways of working that will help create more employment opportunities within the sector. 

At Hijinx we see the power of theatre and the arts to transform on a daily basis. We are proud to create work and experiences that change people’s perceptions, and create changes that lead to increased opportunities, but we know we still need to do a lot more, especially at this time of recovery. We want to ensure our communities are not excluded from engaging with the arts after the pandemic. We, alongside many other organisations and individuals, will continue to lobby for inclusive provision for artists, participants and audiences. We want the screen and stage industries to follow the Seven Industry Principles, a new guide to support the industry to make decisions inclusively, to go beyond compliance and celebrate diversity, and to see a truly inclusive recovery.” 

Sarah Horner - Chief Executive, Hijinx

Hijinx’s Social Impact Report was supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation. 

Hidden airs on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 16 March at 9pm and on BBC Four on 19 March at 9pm. The series will also be available to watch on iPlayer.