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DaDafest director claims outdated views cause theatres to shun shows with disabled actors

Nadia Albina as Cassandra in the RSC's 2015 production of Hecuba. Photo: Alastair Muir Nadia Albina as Cassandra in the RSC's 2015 production of Hecuba. Photo: Alastair Muir
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Many theatres still fear shows involving disabled actors will “not be very good”, according to DaDafest artistic director Ruth Gould.

Speaking at the UK Theatre touring conference on March 17, Gould suggested that new theatre involving deaf and disabled people faced barriers because of people’s outdated misconceptions.

She told theatre leaders at the London event: “People’s understanding creates opportunity and can dispel fear, and my experience shows me that there is still a lot of fear in developing this work.”

She continued: “[There is] fear that audiences will not be attracted to the work, fear that we can get the access part of it wrong for the audiences, and fear that the work will not be very good. Fear over health and safety issues. That fear costs us much, and we need to address it.”

Gould was speaking about disability both on- and off-stage, alongside New Wolsey Theatre chief executive Sarah Holmes and actor Nadia Albina – who recently starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2015 production of Hecuba.

Recalling her experience in the cast, Albina said she was “surprised” by the company’s concerns surrounding her disability.

“The RSC are really trying to open up their doors to more diverse casting. But I was surprised by just how much fear there was in that institution – ‘What if I say the wrong thing?’ ‘What if I do the wrong thing?’” the actor explained.

But she stressed: “It doesn’t matter. Because [hiring disabled performers]…it enriches the work you produce. It gives it an extra layer. It forces you to look at something that you thought you knew. It twists everything and makes you see plays and shows and work afresh – and we all want to make exciting work.”

The international DaDafest 2016, which celebrates work by and featuring deaf and disabled people, will take place from November 18 to December 3.

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