I am a rude, pink-haired theatre lover, who also happens to have cerebral palsy and no speech. I use a communication aid to speak (think a punk Stephen Hawking), but the words that come out of my computer will quickly shatter any stereotypes you might have about disabled people.
It is time to hear the real voices of disabled people, beyond the sob stories about pitiable, pathetic caricatures, desperate to 'overcome' their tragic disabilities. Speechless, written by me and directed by Paul C. Mooney, uses dark humour and disabled villains to get across a serious point: you don't need speech to have a voice.
Better representation of disabled people generally is important, as Rosemary Frazer, Scope's campaign manager, highlighted. Nine in 10 disabled people believe that more disabled people in the media would improve attitudes to disability. I feel that, as a person without speech, the arts and media representation of people like me do not show the possibility of different methods of communication, rather we are shown as infantile, passive, with no voice of their own.
In the musical's protagonist's quest for independence against over bearing parents and her journey to find her voice through a communication aid, there are other roles for disabled actors, however they are not defined by their disability and therefore the impairments are incidental to the storyline. But includes a dastardly, dirty rotten scoundrel who is a wheelchair user.
I hope our work will go some way to confront the sobering fact, presented in Scope's End the Awkward campaign, that two-thirds of people admit to feeling awkward about disability.
As The director Paul C. Mooney says, "When Kate first approached me in regards to the project, It's fair to say I hadn't really given much thought about disability in theatre. To quote Kate, "Daniel Day Lewis played a brilliant spazzie in " My Left Foot", but it could have been played by a real spazzie". This caught me off guard."
He explains "As a middle class white man who is a fairly woolly liberal, this sent my awkwardness in to overdrive. Words like able-bodied, inflicted, handicapped shot out of my mouth like wasps at a picnic. Once that was out of the way I saw how this story needs telling. This is a voice that needs to be listened to. This voice needs to be heard on a big stage. Not in community hall, or as a piece of amateur dramatics . This needs to be performed by professional disabled and non-disabled actors. This needs to be a touring, West End, who knows Broadway production. We are living in a world of drastic cuts to disabled people's incomes and the arts, The voice of the disabled artist could be the thing of the past very soon. As a director, writer, performer, as a human I cannot stand by and let that happen."
We envisage the Musical will be seen by a wide ranging audience and help in the reduction of any stigma surrounding disability. However, the main purpose of the show is to tell a really good original story with a lot of laughs along the way and an excellent professional cast of actors. In fact, the script is closer to Frankie Boyle than drama therapy.
Will Eddie Redmayne be playing the teenage protagonist? For once, all the disabled parts will be played by disabled actors, company policy for the inclusive theatre company. Speechless provides opportunities for disabled actors to be part of a professional production that tells their stories from their own perspectives.
Join myself and Paul in making Speechless the Musical happen. Kate and Paul's company, The Unspoken Project CIC, is currently fundraising for the premier of Speechless, the unique coming-of-age tale of someone without speech. It is time the authentic voice of disabled people is heard. The Unspoken Project CIC, is currently fundraising for the premier of Speechless in September, the unique coming-of-age tale of someone without speech. It is time the authentic voice of disabled people is heard.