When is a small person NOT a small person

Convener(s): Sophie

Participants: Nick Sweeting; Jo Wonder; Lee; Matilda; Jo Hemmond; Angela Clerkin; Gary

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Sophie – doesn’t get put up for ‘small people’ roles because she uses a wheelchair; equally – doesn’t get cast as a wheelchair user – can she be cast in mainstream theatre in a non disabled role.

Lee   – all about boxes – the casting machinery is built on boxes

  • obstacles – having to ask for specific people when casting
  • until our work breaks out of that….

Jo H - recently worked with a Director for whom it had never    occurred to cast disabled performers.

Sophie – first gate – money for access for small companies 

Lee – if we wait for the money we’ll be waiting forever

Angela – drawn to the question because of not wanting to be a ‘label’; if I say I belong to one group then I won’t belong to another.  Trying to get to a place where labels don’t matter.  Barrier is fear.

Lee   - audiences not troubled in a way that the casting mechanism suggests they might be.

Angela – critics troubled – by that – conservatism – don’t want things to change.

Agents/drama schools/casting agents = block

Boxes within boxes

How to create more roles

Andrew Mc – directors don’t want wheelchair users – not pretty.  Reluctant to have a deaf actor playing a deaf character.  Why?

Lee – artistic truth but then there’s the mechanism

Sophie – not an artistic decision – based on prejudice.

Lee – what they fear/perceive and reaction will be – mismatch with reality

Angela – a lot of it is money – fear of special provision.  Really about willingness.

Jo H – in majority of cases money is a small barrier – government money available.

Barriers = fear and ignorance…..how do we change? Start with theatre makers.

Gary – two instances – freak or hidden; cultural shift needs to happen ……willingness

Lee   - routes before casting.  Do we need to reach 2 types of people – Peope excited/ready by working with people who are different to them.

  • People not interested due to fear etc

Are different strategies required – exposure; networks; making work


  • Rural touring companies holding annual auditions in a group
  • Mind the Gap – showcase
  • Graeae – open rehearsals
  • Workshops – RFOs – so it’s not about box ticking for money
  • Meetings/networks

- Work on companies that want to work with disabled performers but don’t know how to