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Leading theatre companies that work with disabled artists, including Graeae and Hijinx, have criticised the decision to use a puppet to portray an autistic child in a new play at London’s Southwark Playhouse.
The comments come as a petition criticising the portrayal as “dehumanising” and calling for the play to be cancelled has reached nearly 9,000 signatures.
Alex Oates’ All in a Row, directed by Dominic Shaw, tells the story of a couple whose child is described as “autistic, non-verbal, and occasionally violent”. It opened on February 14, with press night on February 18.
Ben Pettitt-Wade, who is artistic director at The Stage award-winning company Hijinx, which works with actors with learning disabilities, said: “Without seeing All in a Row, it’s impossible to provide a comment on the production’s merit.
“However, we would mention that we think it’s far from impossible to cast a neurodivergent actor [such as a performer with autism] in a role such as this one. At Hijinx, every one of our productions stars actors who are neurodivergent and/or have learning difficulties.”
The company also tweeted that the use of a puppet appeared to be an “unimaginative artistic decision”, and invited the producers to a meeting to discuss the benefits of casting a performer with autism.
Graeae Theatre Company, which works with D/deaf and disabled artists, tweeted: “This is certainly very disappointing. At Graeae, we are always pushing for fair and authentic representation of D/deaf and disabled people. Producers, artists, writers and casting directors all have responsibility to ensure genuine portrayal on stage and off.”
Read more at: https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2019/graeae-hijinx-criticise-disappointing-use-puppet-autism-play/