Cripping up (again)….

Those who know my work will be aware of my antipathy towards non-disabled actors ‘cripping up’ to play disabled characters. As I put it in my 2002 play ‘peeling’: ‘Cripping-up is the twenty-first century’s answer to blacking up.’

It’s a theme continued in my response to Lisa Hammond’s fantastic open letter to writers about putting crips in scripts for The Guardian last year  and a long lament from many of us, recently so eloquently by Rosaleen McDonagh, and through her decades-long dedication and innovative practice by Jenny Sealey.

So hurrah hurrah, someone outside disability arts and culture has taken up the cause. This week the wonderful Lyn Gardner questions the casting of Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ in her blog:

‘We no longer accept white actors blacking up – yet the able-bodied Daniel Radcliffe is playing a physically disabled character in the West End. How come?’

It’s been a long time coming, but perhaps at last this issue will be placed firmly on the commercial theatre agenda. It’s frustrating that someone from the ‘mainstream’ needs to take it up for the question to be validated, but I’m grateful for allies with such public visibility. Hopefully together we can challenge this practice.

You can read Lyn’s post here:

2 responses to “Cripping up (again)….

  1. There’s no shortage of talent amongst the ranks of the disabled. Why not use them? A great cause Kaite.

    • Thanks, David.
      I remember when I was in my teens a big news story about a black actor playing Othello at one of the large building based theatres, maybe even the RSC. The moment is memorable, as I was astonished and then horrified that such casting would be considered ‘news’. The notion that white actors ‘blacked up’ to play this part was shocking and also patronising, as though the depth and magnificence of the part could only be supplied by the ‘superior’ white actor… Or at least that’s how I perceived it all those years ago, and see it as such now, too, re-disabled characters and actors.
      Of course acting is playing someone else and I’d love to see a future where people are cast regardless of any physical or racial or gender considerations… But first we need to have a level playing field, so that the many fine disabled and Deaf performers I know of have at least the opportunity to audition for a disabled character part – never mind the as yet dream of a non-disabled lead…

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