AN aspiring actor with a learning disability hopes to reach the big stage of the London Palladium.

Hexham resident Stephen Castelow, 31, hopes to inspire others with disabilities to follow their dreams by featuring in television shows and theatre productions.

Stephen, who has a learning disability and autism, is supported by Hexham-based Natural Ability, a disability services and support organisation. 

He featured as an extra in the Queen's Hall Theatre Club's production of Goodnight Mister Tom, which was on show at The Queen's Hall Arts Centre in Hexham from June 27 until June 29.

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Stephen also previously featured in ITV's hit drama series Vera, on the first episode of the thirteenth season which aired on Sunday, January 7.

Stephen during the showStephen during the show (Image: Paul Gaitskell)

The Vera episode, which was filmed in May 2023 in Hexham's marketplace, featured Stephen as a market shopper. 

Matt McClure as Mister TomMatt McClure as Mister Tom (Image: Queen's Hall Theatre Club)

In Goodnight Mister Tom, Stephen was one of the villagers and a doctor in the production.

"It was good as it built my confidence up, coming from my local drama club Gateway into the Community to a theatre production." 

(L) Owen Fabricius as Zach and Liam Mather-Pender as William Beech(L) Owen Fabricius as Zach and Liam Mather-Pender as William Beech (Image: Queen's Hall Theatre Club)

One of Stephen's carers, Charlotte, said: "It makes him quite happy when he does acting. He's doing it with the community and for the community, and it builds up his confidence quite a lot when it comes to speaking to people. 

Stephen backstageStephen backstage (Image: Paul Gaitskell)

"He had a singing role in the performance and it was lovely. He came out every night really happy," she added.

Julia Ferguson, chief executive of Gateway into the Community, said: "Gateway is so proud of Stephen, he always follows his dreams. His dedication and commitment have got him to where he is now and he has real aspirations which is amazing to have those dreams. He has succeeded in a lot of his goals and he is really dedicated," she added.

Stephen wants to perform in touring musicals on stage and in more television shows in the future. 

He said: "One of my dreams is I want to be in the London Palladium doing a musical on the stage. I would like to do a big role at some point on stage in a musical.

"It would be good to prove people with disabilities can do things around touring and stages. I think it proves what people with disabilities can do," Stephen added.

He also volunteers at Adapt Cafe in Hexham.