Great reckonings in more accessible rooms

The provocative reimaginings of disability theatre

Authored by: Kirsty Johnston

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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In the context of a media relations workshop that my home university urged faculty to take, I was coached to explain my research on disability theatre in short, media-friendly ways. After several failed attempts which were rightly criticised for being too dense, meandering, or opaque, the experts and interdisciplinary workshop participants selected one story as their favourite ‘hook.’ It concerned the time I went to see a stage adaptation of  Dostoevsky’s famed 1898 novel The Idiot which used flashing lights to achieve its dramatic effects. Otherwise a compelling, award-winning, socially thoughtful, and artistically innovative production, the event nonetheless provided a clear example of theatre’s frequently bewildering and antagonistic relationship with disabled people. Although it focused on one of the most famous fictional characters with epilepsy and drew on the work of one of the most celebrated Western literary authors whose life experiences included epilepsy, its design and directorial choices risked inaccessibility for patrons who experience epilepsy and photosensitivity.

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