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A new era at Bedlam? Paving the way to accessible theatre

ByChess O'Mahony

Oct 10, 2019

As the oldest student-run theatre in the UK, a long and impressive legacy stands behind Bedlam Theatre. Their eminence in Edinburgh’s theatre community is one to be rivalled, characterised by the consistently impressive quality and originality of their productions. But, as is often the case in the wider theatre industry, such a legacy is also associated with a degree of exclusivity and inaccessibility. For an institution that has been operating as long as Bedlam, change and evolution can often become static, halted under the weight of years of “the same types of people telling the same stories”, as Bedlam President Camilla Makhmudi describes it. However, as Bedlam sits on the brink of its fortieth anniversary, a new legacy is beginning to surface, one that encapsulates inclusion and accessibility for all.

Bedlam are fiercely determined to acknowledge and remedy the exclusivity that can so drastically limit the theatre industry, ensuring that their doors are open to new voices and ideas. As Makhmudi puts it, “theatre has a reputation and a tendency to not be very accessible” — a legacy that Bedlam will no longer uphold.

Last year, the initiative ‘BAME at Bedlam’ was introduced, a programme aimed at getting more young people of colour into theatre. As well as student meet ups, BAME at Bedlam generally explores why certain aspects of theatre are problematic and how they can be changed. This movement towards accessibility has catalysed other changes within Bedlam, such as the introduction of a sub-committee of liberation officers, in alignment with the Students’ Association five liberation campaigns (Women, BAME, LGBTQ+, Trans and Non-Binary and Disabled Students). Ahead of the Students’ Association, this sub-committee at Bedlam will also include a Working Class officer which they hope will lead the way for other university societies.

Bedlam has carved out such an important place for itself within Edinburgh’s theatre world over the past forty years, and now more than ever they are using this space to impact the future of student theatre.

With movements towards inclusion such as these, Bedlam hopes to create a new legacy beyond themselves which will impact not only Edinburgh’s theatre landscape but the university community as a whole. Put simply by Makhmudi, “the more people that get involved, and the more different kinds of people that get involved, the better the theatre is” — a message that epitomises the Bedlam ethos.

Illustration: Hannah Robinson

By Chess O'Mahony

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