AN AMATEUR actor from Winchester says performing with others, especially during lockdown this year, has helped him with his mental health.

James, 49, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, lives by himself and says he often feels low as he struggles to communicate with others.

He is a member of Blue Apple, a Hampshire charity for people with learning disabilities through drama, dance, singing and film.

James says he looks forward to his Monday drama group each week.

“I do struggle and find it difficult to communicate with people, some don’t understand me," he said.

"But when I go to Blue Apple, there’s lots like me with learning disabilities, and we understand each other. I feel anxious and low sometimes, trying to explain myself but when I go to Blue Apple, I find it’s a way of releasing and expressing myself.

"I have fun in rehearsals and it’s good to see the end result when we perform a production. It gives me a lift and helps me with my mental health.

"It also gives me a bit of confidence as well and helps me feel like I have a purpose. Connecting with others is a real boost too, especially at the moment with social distancing.”

James has performed in the recent productions of The Railway Children and The Tempest at Theatre Royal Winchester and is currently working on a winter production of Pinocchio, which will be live streamed in December.

Richard Conlon, Blue Apple’s artistic director, said: “I think what James says about feeling better when he's involved in making a show will be shared by lots of other cast members. The camaraderie, the challenge of learning lines and moves, as well as learning to work together - make us all bring out our best selves.

"James' experiences make him a really thoughtful member of the cast - he is always keen for us to remember that each of us has needs that others need to take account of."