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Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Tuesday, 10 August 2010 16:51 UK
Down's Syndrome teenager awarded Youth Theatre place
Chris Sampson at the National Youth Theatre
Chris Sampson win his place at the National Youth Theatre in London

An 18-year-old from Sheffield has become the first man with Down's syndrome to join the National Youth Theatre (NYT).

Chris Sampson rapped in sign language in his audition and won a place alongside 600 other talented performers from around the country.

Chris who has severe learning difficulties and hearing problems, is staying in London with his mother Nicky for the two week course.

"He was a little nervous to start with because he's working with the cream of youngsters in the National Youth Theatre," explained Nicky. "The youngsters have been amazing and very inclusive towards Christopher. They just treat him as if he is one of them, as if he isn't any different and that is just what I wanted."

Chris was up against 5,000 other applicants for the place and is thrilled to be there: "It's absolutely fantastic. It means so much for me to come and do this. It is the best moment I have enjoyed."

World renowned actors such as Helen Mirren, former James Bond star Daniel Craig and current Dr Who, Matt Smith, all trained at the National Youth Theatre in London.

Michael Bryher is the course leader from the National Youth Theatre: "He has been absolutely great. The thing that I noticed the most is that there isn't anything different about Chris because everyone is different."

Chris' mother Nicky told BBC Sheffield that she and her son are looking forward to the possibility of taking centre stage in the future. "He's been given an extraordinary opportunity to work with a production company which produced the puppets for the last four Olympics. They came to visit the NYT and I mentioned to the director that Chris could do Makaton (sign language) and one of the puppets is about communication. What we think will happen, is that Chris may take centre stage in the production and will be signing and singing to these puppets. So it looks as though it maybe a pivotal role for him."

In November 2009, Chris assisted South Yorkshire Police officers at Woodseats Police Station in Sheffield to learn Makaton. The 18-year-old continues to share his knowledge and skills of the language which uses speech, facial expression, gestures, signs and symbols to convey information to his class mates at the theatre.

Downs teen wins place in theatre

Downs teen wins place in theatre
10 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Sign language lessons for police
01 Dec 09 |  South Yorkshire



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