activist, author, disability rights, disabled actors, girlpower, inclusion, internationalwomensday, Leicester, on tour, ontheroad, pennypepper, performance poet, poems, poet, thenakedpunk, woman writer, women, WordLesta, writer, writing, Writing workshop
Happy New Year!
I know I’m a bit late, but then I’ve been immersed – in writing and in edits. Edits are usually not a writers’ favourite job, but it’s where you see the magic and – with blood and tears – you fall in love with your work again. As I did with my novel in progress, Fancy Nancy. She’s like no one you can imagine, but I hope you’ll take her to your hearts – soon.
I did do a piece for The Guardian G2 a few weeks ago about disabled actors and the resistance to employing them, while non-disabled actors get given the roles instead. There’s an endless whine of reasoning about why disabled actors can’t do it. Let me unpick them…
Not experienced enough!
This is not a situation exclusive to disabled actors, but the main challenge is the extreme lack of access to training and audition venues. If you don’t get to try, and fail, and try again, how the hell do you get to have this experience, which they crow you don’t have?!
Disabled people can’t take the strain of the punishing schedules!
Some bright sparks on Twitter lectured me about this. I never really respond to downright self-righteous stupidity – wastes my energy. I am certain these commentators don’t know any disabled actors, and probably not many disabled people. One was fixated on spinal-injured actors putting schedules six weeks behind. Dearie me. Why six and not five? Or eight? I also mused that this idea wipes out the capabilities of a whole lot of international, highly buff, intensely trained Paralympians. But there is one name to conclude this argument: Liz Carr. Clarissa Mullery in BBC’s Silent Witness. I’ve never once heard Liz say, ‘poor me, the schedules’.
Besides, the film industry are used to managing all manner of rescheduling and anyone who’s read stuff on Hollywood and beyond, will know this can be as simple as a star not having the right mineral water, or yoga mat…
There aren’t enough disabled actors!
And old and mouldy chestnut my dears. Fuck off with this nonsense. There are hundreds in the UK. Ask the actors union, Equity. As Graeae Theatre Company who has trained generations. Including me in 2005/06, a time I remember with happy memory, gaining skills I use to this day in my spoken word gigs.
It’s a silly idea. Actors are actors – this is PC nonsense! And who really cares?
The hardest view to unravel because it is unreasoned. Thankfully we no longer accept “blacking up” and we should not accept “cripping up”. There will and should be fluidity around this – but let’s get some genuine equality into this argument first. Such statements come from a sense of superiority and privilege, not experience and genuine knowledge of a disabled life. Other flabby comments suggested it was a slippery slope where no one, could play any one unless the demographic matched. No, simply get diversity into the mix first, and stop with this puerile reductionism.
There will be another rant in a similar vein – about opportunities for writers who want to share the disability experience further. Not around ISSUES. And it is always a block caps thing, these ISSUES. Disabled people are mothers, fathers, criminals, lovers, workers, artists. Writers. But you’d hardly know it from the creative industry.
I don’t carry a chip on my shoulder, I carry a damn bag of ISSUES I never asked to carry! – Penny Pepper says…
Must briefly mention my upcoming visit to Leicester and the Attenborough Arts Centre. The Naked Punk Project gets underway on 28th February and if you’re local, do come and join in. Words and wordage, spoken and said, I’m bringing the Penny way to you with other great talent on the bill. I’m excited, yes I am,and look forward to seeing loads of you there. From Leicester, all the way back to Newham in East London, for 7th March… but that’s for the next time!