A proper actor? The politics of training for learning disabled actors

Emma Gee, Matt Hargrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This essay, through montage rather than monologue, seeks to open a debate about the politics of training for learning disabled actors. The journey of the disabled actor from participant in social drama to specialised agent in a professional theatre economy has involved experiments in different forms of actor training. Drawing on interviews with actors, directors and allied professionals involved in Mind the Gap's Staging Change training programme, the essay examines what barriers exist to the establishment of learning disabled artists as professionals intheir own right. The article reflects the contested nature of current training provision: its position in the wider theatrical economy and its relation to both disability studies and applied theatre. Debate in this latter field centres on ‘authenticity’: exactly what kind of performance are these actors being trained for? Is there such a thing as an authentic learning disability culture? If so, how might performance, and its professional shadow, training, represent, conceal, critique and even threaten this culture? Furthermore, must the required training be radically different: more an undoing of repressive social mechanisms than a goal-driven acquisition of a set of formal skills? The article reverses this concern and suggests that withholding ‘mainstream’ training opportunities from disabled performers risks continued disablement. Via a collage of diverse voices the article argues for a close examination of the meaning and implications of authenticity as a value system. It suggests a move toward an engagement with the politics of craftsmanship: a reframing of the work of learning disabled artists as vocational labour rather than a supposed ‘authentic’ presentation of self.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-53
JournalTheatre, Dance and Performance Training
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'A proper actor? The politics of training for learning disabled actors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this