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Guest post: Are there enough disabled actors in theatre?

theatregeektheatregeek Member Posts: 1 Listener
edited September 2016 in Guest blogs
Hello, the other day I tweeted about recent plays that I'd seen which included disabled actors and Scope asked if I would write about it here.

This week the Breaking Bad actor RJ Mitte who has cerebral palsy, called for the number of disabled actors on TV to be increased. Theatre also has a long, long way to go.

Some progress has been made in equality casting with regard to gender and racial diversity in UK theatre. It’s become usual at a production of Shakespeare or other classical plays to see a cast of female and BAME actors performing roles originally written for white men. Maxine Peake and Papa Essiedu both gave fantastic performances recently as Hamlet. Glenda Jackson is soon to play King Lear at the Old Vic.

And there are some small signs that an awareness of inclusivity for disabled actors is starting to grow. In the past few weeks I’ve seen three great productions that included a disabled actor.

1.       Unreachable at The Royal Court.

Genevieve Barr who is deaf plays Eva. She is one of the money people trying to ensure that a perfectionist film director (Matt Smith) keeps on schedule. Genevieve also starred in The Solid Life of Sugar Water earlier this year at the National Theatre.


2.       The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre.

Jamie Beddard who has cerebral palsy plays one of Mack the Knife’s gang of rogues. Apparently Rufus Norris the Artistic Director of the National Theatre was impressed and wants to work with him in the future.


3.       Macbeth at The Globe.

Nadia Albina whose right arm finishes at her elbow, doubles up in a number of roles. The main one is as the Porter. She totally commands the stage when delivering the Porter’s ranting monologue. And is so funny that she brings the house down.

Obviously it’s not enough. It may be tokenistic at the moment but hopefully the ball has started to role.   


  • Community_ScopeCommunity_Scope Posts: 87

    Scope community team

    Thanks for an excellent post theatregeek! Has anyone else seen any productions recently that feature disabled actors in a key role? 
  • Graham_ScopeGraham_Scope Scope Posts: 16 Courageous
    Liz "Silent Witness"  Carr is doing a one-night only performance of her darkly titled Assisted Suicide: the Musical at the South Bank. Liz is a member of Not Dead Yet, so her musical will be challenging, provocative and also quite entertaining. See:
  • AlexAlex Scope Posts: 1,324 Pioneering
    @grahamfindlay - I'm really curious about that show. Such a serious thing to write a musical about, I'm very tempted to get tickets!

    I've been lucky to see a couple of great productions this year with disabled actors. The Solid Life of Sugar Water at the National Theatre and The Government Inspector at Theatre Royal in Stratford. Both were really good and all of the actors were disabled.

    One thing I loved about both productions was how accessible they were - for example in The Government Inspector, some of the characters used BSL, and when they did a different character would do voiceover. It was just very natural and part of the production rather than bolted on the side.
  • quinrahquinrah Member Posts: 24 Courageous
    I feel really passionate about this issue. My disabled nephew wants to be an actor and he loves it when we come across a role model but it happens too infrequently. Hopefully I'll be watching him tread the boards as a professional in a few years time.
  • RhonaRhona Member Posts: 13 Courageous
    As a trained actor before my MS showed itself, I get rather upset when disabled actors only get considered when there is a disabled issue that needs to be covered. I, and many other disabled performers, live a full life, have issues in my love life, problems with finances and many other'stories' that are not connected with my medical condition. There's no reason why my life has to be dictated by my MS and audiences only get to see disabilities as a problem rather than just as a part of life. Hope that my little rant makes sense.
  • shellwishesshellwishes Member Posts: 2
    There should definitely be more disabled actors - I am lucky enough to know some very very talented autistic adults xx
  • JudomandeanJudomandean Member Posts: 50 Courageous
    I agree that there are not enough disabled actors on our screens.  I think the Eastenders do well with the Billy Mitchell and Honey's daughter who is Downs and a terrific actor.  My cousin worked on Eastender for a while playing Owen (Lee Ross) and said the show were forwarded thinking
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