1st Edition

Incapacity and Theatricality Politics and Aesthetics in Theatre Involving Actors with Intellectual Disabilities

By Tony McCaffrey Copyright 2019
    204 Pages
    by Routledge

    204 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Incapacity and Theatricality acknowledges the distinctive contribution to contemporary theatrical performance made by actors with intellectual disabilities. It presents a close examination of certain key theatrical performances across a variety of different media, including John Cassavetes’ 1963 social issues film A Child Is Waiting; the performance art collaboration between Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles; and the provocative pranksterism of Christoph Schlingensief’s talent show mockumentary FreakStars 3000.

    Tracing a global path of performances, Incapacity and Theatricality offers an analysis of how actors with intellectual disabilities have emerged onto the main stage, and how their inclusion calls into question long-held assumptions about both theatre and intellectual disability.

    For postgraduate students, or anyone interested in the shifting dynamics of twenty-first century theatre, McCaffrey’s work offers a vital consideration of the intersubjective relations between people with and without intellectual disabilities and ultimately addresses urgent questions about the situation and representation of the contemporary subject caught up somewhere between incapacity and theatricality.


    Introduction: Framing the singularities of actors with intellectual disabilities in theatrical performance

    Chapter One: ‘A spotlight on the subject of retardation’: A Child is Waiting

    Chapter Two: Mirror stages: Aldo Gennaro and Robert Wilson

    Chapter Three: Parody, intermediality and postdramatic turns

    Conclusion and afterword: Lines of flight



    Tony McCaffrey is a Lecturer in Creative Industries at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts, Ara Institute, Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2004 he established the Different Light Theatre Company, an ensemble of performers with intellectual disabilities.

    "McCaffrey's research makes an original contribution to this rapidly expanding field, balancing his passion for the topic with deeply considered scholarship, revealing a form of theatre that is aesthetically innovative, plays with the boundaries of theatrical representation, is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing, and is located at the cutting edge of contemporary performance practice." - David O’Donnell, Victoria University of Wellington

    "Overall, the book gives voice to many of the questions that need to be asked in relation to the development of intellectual disability theatre. It does not pretend to offer answers to these questions but problematises them in a way that becomes essential reading for anyone planning to do further work in this area in the future, whether theatrical or theoretical." - Paul McNamara, University of Limerick, Ireland

    "This is a powerful contribution to scholarship in learning-disability theatre, offering a critical approach to understandings of what is at stake and for whom – practitioners, critics, theorists and audiences – further developing the field of learning-disability performance." - Margaret Ames, Aberystwyth University, Wales, Theatre Research International