Side effects: an analysis of Mind the Gap's Boo and the reception of theatre involving learning disabled actors

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Abstract

This article analyses Mind the Gap's Boo, a re-imagining of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird", which features a cast of learning disabled actors. It is concerned with the public reception of the work, particularly the "effect" of an all-disabled cast. What are the consequences, both ethical and aesthetic, for these actors to tell this story on stage in front of a public audience? When and how are they "on stage" and how might this be subtly different from seeing or meeting them "off stage"? The article engages in the critical response to Boo. Its provocation is this: that theatre involving learning disabled actors involves the aesthetics not just of uncertainty but of anxiety; and that while perhaps a majority of spectators, disabled and non-disabled alike, are likely to embrace this work, some may find it difficult to accept a learning disabled actor on stage. Such theatre produces "side effects"--unintended and perhaps uncomfortable consequences. These side effects, if understood, can lead to important insights into the meaning of disability in performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-511
JournalResearch in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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