Ways of watching

Five aesthetics of learning disability theatre

Authored by: Matthew Reason

The Routledge Handbook of Disability Arts, Culture, and Media

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815368410
eBook ISBN: 9781351254687
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the last two decades, following in the footsteps of pioneering companies such as Mind the Gap (UK) and Back to Back Theatre (Australia), theatre by performers with learning disabilities has progressively moved from the domains of the therapeutic or community orientated to that of art. While the boundaries between these categories are far from absolute, this movement is marked by a shift in venues (from private facilities or community halls to ‘mainstream’ theatres), funders (from health or community provision to arts funders), and audiences (from friends and family to a wider public). All these factors combine to entail a transformation in the ways that audiences are invited to watch. From a history in which people with learning disabilities have attracted a predominately medicalised or fearful gaze, learning disability theatre now invites a different kind of aesthetic attention. This chapter examines the particular ways of watching that this constructs.

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