feature stories

Meet Hijinx: the Welsh company exporting their academy model internationally

Hijinx is a Welsh theatre company who always include learning disabled actors in their productions, run a number of ‘Hijinx Academies’ which develop learning-disabled talent and host the biennial Hijinx Unity Festival. Joe Turnbull speaks to Chief Executive Clare Williams about the company’s international work, including plans to export its academy model overseas.

In summer 2016, Hijinx took Meet Fred, their production about a potty-mouthed puppet beset by troubles in dating, housing and losing his ‘puppet living allowance’ benefits, to Edinburgh Fringe. It was a critical smash, gaining four and five-star reviews from the likes of The Stage, The List and The Herald. Believing in the show’s quality, this may not have come as such a surprise to the company. But what they didn’t expect was for a production with such British cultural references, to set them on a massive international journey.

Woman sitting next to banraku puppet
Hijinx's Meet Fred. Photograph: Tom Beardshaw

A promoter from AC Orange, the largest private performing arts company and the largest chain of theatre management in China, was impressed by Meet Fred. “In China, they have thousands of young people flooding into cities from the provinces looking for the things that Fred is looking for: somewhere to live, a relationship, a job,” explains Clare Williams. “So, for those reasons, AC Orange saw it as a very pertinent production relevant to a Chinese audience.”