Guest post: Are there enough disabled actors in theatre?
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.