Sisters forced to pull show challenging stereotypes about Down's syndrome

Sophie, who lives with the condition, and Emily discovered the venue was double-booked then endured various technical problems.

Two sisters say they’ve been forced to abandon plans to stage a show about growing up with Down’s syndrome at the Edinburgh Fringe, due to technical problems and a lack of support. 

Sophie Potter, who lives with the condition, and her younger sister Emily, have written the play using footage and music from their childhood to show the challenges and joys of having a sibling with a learning disability.  

But when the sisters arrived at Just the Tonic Grassmarket for a technical rehearsal, the theatre space was double-booked. They then encountered various technical problems. 

Emily said: “I think the problem would have just been solved if there’s someone on site every day who actually knows how to operate everything, rather than getting passed from pillar to post. 

“We did perform the show on Saturday to a small audience, but it was kind of a tech run so none of the music worked, none of the video worked.”

The disruption had such an impact on Sophie that they decided to cancel the rest of the run. 

The sisters had been delighted to be making their debut at one of the world’s biggest arts festivals, and were hoping to educate and entertain audiences about a subject which is rarely under the spotlight.

Their visit to Edinburgh was only possible after they were selected by the new Keep it Fringe Fund – endorsed by Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge – which offers grants to performers facing financial and social barriers. 

Emily added: “We’ve invested all of our money. All Sophie’s personal disability allowance has gone towards this show… And then to arrive and to not get the opportunity to fully embrace the Keep it Fringe award. 

“The main thing was, we just wanted to really get our story across to the disabled community, to other people with Down’s syndrome, and other siblings and family members who’ve experienced what we’ve experienced.”

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”. 

He added: “Whilst I accept that there were issues, they were the result of an unforeseen issue which was the laptop not being compatible with the projector – this is not something we could have foreseen… 

“We offered to do everything we could to fix it all for the second show, but were told they did not want to continue. We are very sorry that the show did not go ahead. It is not something we wanted to happen.”

A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: “The Keep it Fringe fund was launched in early 2023 to provide 50 artists with a small amount of financial support for those who face a range of barriers to bringing their story to the Fringe. 

“The purpose of the fund was to help artists tell untold stories and ensure the Fringe reflected a diverse range of ideas and narratives.

“We are talking directly with Sophie and her team to offer support and ensure we understand their experience and use it to continue developing our support services for artists.” 

Paul Donnelly, head of campaigns and activism at disability support charity Mencap, said: “We are deeply disappointed to hear about Sophie and Emily’s experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“We hope that they can get the show running again and take the play to London as they had hoped.

“Sophie and Emily are doing amazing work in sharing their experience of living life with a learning disability.

“They are educating and reaching audiences about disability through their bravery in sharing their unique story.

“We know that barriers exist at every level of society for people with a learning disability and it is unacceptable to see the arts being no different. 

“People with a learning disability shouldn’t have to constantly fight for their rights. The arts are a crucial place of expression and freedom and must be accessible for all.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code