AN INSPIRATIONAL former Tavistock College student breaking down barriers as he is due to take the stage in his first West End show.

Ed Larkin, 25, thinks he is the first wheelchair user to take the lead role in a London musical — which is also happens to be his West End debut. By overcoming societal and physical barriers Ed has been hailed an inspiration by his former college where he studied drama and performing arts and has been invited to speak to students about his achievements and his life.

Ed was born with cerebral palsy and has always used a wheelchair, but this has not held him back in a high achieving early career and sporting life. He has starred in TV in BBC’s Doctors and is due to be in Casualty in August and acted in the show Delicate, by the group Extraordinary Bodies in Plymouth’s Theatre Royal. Now he is the lead in The Little Big Things musical, opening at Soho Place, from Saturday, September 2. If he hadn’t succeeded in acting he could have been a GB para-rugby player as part of the GB talent squad.

Ed, of Bere Alston, said: ‘I’m so blessed to be starring in a mainstream musical in the West End so early in my career. This is my first West End show and first musical and my first lead. I’m honoured to play the title character, who was disabled after hitting a sandbank diving in the sea and had a spinal injury. I hope I can draw on my own life in playing the part. It’s based on the story by Henry Fraser — a real person so, there’s a real responsibility to interpret the character right.’

He said he also felt a certain responsibility to be a good example to other disabled actors and the industry as a whole, as one of the few to be cast in a prominent role – especially under the glare of publicity and in a high profile role.

‘I’m really looking forward to it. So far, it’s the highlight of my life to be in muscial theatre which I love. It’s very rare for disabled actors to be cast in theatre, let alone as the main character. The industry is behind in that respect, but credit to the team casting the actors realistically. It would’ve been easy for them to put a more experienced able-bodied actor in my place. The real test for diversity will be when the roles for disabled actors are not for disabled roles and the disability is irrelevant to the casting. However, its mostly disabled actors playing disabled characters.’

He said the production placed the pre-disabled younger Henry on the stage at the same time as Ed’s character as the post-accident Henry: ‘That’s going to be a challenge, with his conscious and sub-conscious being acted out at the same time.

‘I’m going to have to be at the top of my game.’

Ed has never shirked a challenge and even credits his disability with his success: ‘I must say that I wouldn’t go back if I had the choice of destiny. If hadn’t been disabled I wouldn’t have the amazing life I have now.’