SQ8: Can we apply the same criteria when evaluating performances of actors with a learning disability as we would in the critique of any other performance?

When someone asks me after the performance, “Was it good?”, will I evaluate the performance of actors who have a learning disability in the same way as any other performance, or will I consider other aspects?


Interview with the Blue Apple Theatre Director, UK:

AvatarAnd I have one last question. Do you think that we should have different criteria when evaluating performances of actors with some learning disability than we have for performance with actors without it…?

Blue Apple Theatre Director

AvatarSimple as that?
AvatarYeah, I think it should just be a performer performing. And unless it’s specific, for example, an autistic actor telling their story of being autistic through a one man show, then of course you want to reflect upon the fact that he has autism because he is talking about it and he is expressing it through a political performance. Yeah, but if you’ve got Autism or Down syndrome or any learning disability, actors who are performing Frankenstein, for example, it’s just actors performing Frankenstein. So, yeah – no, I think it’s just if it’s professional theatre, it’s professional theatre.
Blue Apple Theatre Director

Monologue section:

If I like the performance, it is easier for me to write about it. I’ll accept the concept that suits me and I understand why everything works together. In this case, I usually do not hit a wall that makes me consider how, for example, people with DS work and what their capabilities are. If I didn’t like the performance, I would try to delve into these things. One thing, for example, would be that I would see it all stems from how the director guides the actors. But then I would conclude that I didn’t like the performance of one of the actors with a disability. Before concluding why that was, I would have to know how much of it I can attribute to his actual disability, and how much I can, therefore, excuse. Meaning “Yeah, it wasn’t good, but their capabilities limit them from delivering it in another way.” When I am writing a critique, I am trying to excuse the actors. And I am learning to be critical. And we want to excuse actors with disabilities even more. With that comes a big question that I was asking myself after “Trolls”. Can I even dislike a performance played by actors with disabilities?theatre critic, CZ

I have been thinking a lot about how long they rehearse the play with the kids, and how old the kids are since I wasn’t able to tell… Also how well they can handle managing such a group, what other functions they have as well… These are the things I was interested in. I have been asking myself this whole time how I don’t really know how to assess it aesthetically.theatre critic, CZ

It’s about how to give an actor specific criticism. I can, for example, dislike the concept and think that it stems more from the leadership of the ensemble. Therefore I wouldn’t dare to criticise an actor’s performance and call it weak. theatre critic, CZ

The Blue Apple Theatre seemed determined to have the same criteria as we would with actors without a learning disability. The question is: Are we able to do that? Can the story be presented in a way, so that the effect will be the same, as when played by actors without disabilities? It made me feel a little uncomfortable.theatre critic, CZ

If I consider the actors and the play as one fully-fledged thing and when I don’t compare them to actors without DS, I think the aesthetic is there. I can safely acknowledge it, in fact, and say that it is truly fully-fledged as well. I think it is about not comparing the two groups.theatre critic, CZ

I’m not sure, if I should, for example, distinguish between people with a disability, or not. Should I be careful not to point it out too much? I think it’ll not be a problem for me to write something about “Trolls” (a play by Teatr 21 theatre), moreover because they have gone over the topic of inclusion already, giving me the freedom to talk about it. theatre critic, CZ

What is the theatre trying to achieve? Now I mean not concerning the audience, but for them (actors with disabilities). That’s what I was thinking about throughout the play. I didn’t think about myself in the role of an audience member, but if it fulfils the purpose that they had set for themselves. If it does, then I can judge it as either good or bad. But from another point, I don’t think I can apply some aspects of classic criticism.theatre critic, CZ

I don’t have an answer to this question, honestly. I don’t feel it’s my position to look for rules on how to criticise ordinary actors – therefore it is hard for me to do that with actors with disabilities. It’s obvious that they should be adapted, but how? That I don’t know. I see the quality of their art in a different perspective they can offer the audience, and also in their characteristic casualness.grammar school teacher, CZ

Criticism as a whole is… Well, for me it wasn’t really an ordinary play, therefore I cannot compare it to something like a big drama, more like a small alternative play. I can’t imagine actors’ performances being the centre of the criticism, but rather the director’s execution. Acting to me feels like the most important thing through the critique, and it certainly isn’t possible to compare actors with a disability and without, and their performances. I guess we could observe and compare the performance of every actor according to their capabilities… But that would mean continuously observing the ensemble for a while…professional dancer, CZ

I would say that since I haven’t been watching this type of theatre for that long, I still cannot tell if an actor with a disability is performing badly. I guess it is unavoidable that even actors with disabilities perform badly sometimes, but that would probably happen if we were trying to hide their disabilities. If we tried to change them or ignore their disability, the play would definitely be bad. But if we can understand their individuality and let them be themselves then it is alright. On the other hand, we know how an actor without disabilities performs, know what to expect, and understand their capabilities. We are therefore more critical and rate their performance based on different criteria. theatre studies student, CZ

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