Calvert, Dave (2016) Disability, care and debility: radically reframing the collaboration between non-disabled and learning disabled theatre makers. In: Disability, Arts and Health, 1st - 2nd September 2016, Bergen, Norway. (Unpublished)

This paper reflects on two performances by established ensembles of learning disabled actors working with guest directors: Disabled Theater by Theater Hora, directed by Jerome Bel; and Contained by Mind the Gap, directed by Alan Lyddiard. While these performances are markedly different in tone and content, they also share some broad similarities. Each is structured meta-theatrically, using its making process as a device for framing the performance. This meta-theatrical framework also appears to foreground the operative relationship between learning disabled and non-disabled theatre makers in the respective processes.

Disabled Theater alternates directorial instructions (voiced by an unseen narrator/translator) with sequences of solo acts by the learning disabled performers. Unusually, the postdramatic aesthetics here reassert traditional binaries of auteur / actor, spectacle / spectator and disabled / non-disabled. If this provokes a reconsideration of the role of the actor, it does so by reifying the distinction between the non-disabled director and the learning disabled performers. In Contained, alternatively, the thematic content is explored through more conventional storytelling, supplemented by song, video and the constant assembling and disassembling of the set. In addition, a supporting figure also offers apparently live direction and assistance. The performance culminates with the supporting figure telling her own story, which repositions the learning disabled performers as reciprocal providers of support. I argue that this enacts a redistribution of care that destabilises the binary of disability and non-disability, in favour of the more radical approach that Dan Goodley, following Jasbir Puar, advocates as the politics of debility.

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