Disability Topic of the Month: Films and Theatre
Hello Readers! My name is Toni-Marie. I will tell you just a little bit about my disability as I feel it is relevant. I have cerebral palsy quadriplegia and scoliosis of the spine. This means I am a full-time electric wheelchair user.
Theatre is a big passion of mine. I just love the whole experience from beginning to end! I have got to be honest and say that it is the one place that I have not been back to since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. When it comes to how I spend my free time lately, I will definitely wait until I feel totally comfortable with the idea again. I am literally waiting for something that I can’t wait to see now because I know it will give me the push I need to re-enter theatre land!
In the past, and where possible I have always travelled to London for shows as I really don’t think you can beat the whole experience of theatre in the ‘BIG SMOKE!’ Although, the way the world is now I am much more tempted to support my local theatres.
My Favourites – Films and Theatre
I have been lucky enough to see many different theatre shows in London. So it is really difficult to pick out just a few that I absolutely loved. For me, a trip to the theatre really is about the whole day. The company you go with, the meal you have beforehand, the build-up to the show, the atmosphere once inside the venue and then finally, the long-anticipated show itself!
A few that stick in my mind are:
The Lion King
Disney’s The Lion King! The story of Simba, an energetic, somewhat naive and playful lion cub who is next in line to be king of the pride lands. It is very much a story of identity, family loyalties and responsibility. It has the most incredible musical score written by Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice. Set in Africa, it is filled with colour and vibrancy! I would definitely recommend it and I would go to see it again and again.
My Family: Not The Sitcom
My next choice is a somewhat rather interesting one! I travelled to London to one of the smaller theatre venues to see the comedian, author and presenter David Baddiel’s show, “My Family Not The Sitcom.” David very cleverly told the story of growing up within a Jewish family. He brought his stories alive with humour, incredibly raw honesty and a sensitive, yet unapologetic way of talking about the almost always unspoken topics such as infidelity and Pick’s Disease, the condition which his beloved father Colin recently passed away from.
I could literally listen to David Baddiel all day long. He is intelligent, articulate, witty and sharp-minded. There is also a great depth of compassion for all of his greatest loves. I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my deepest condolences to both David and Ivor Baddiel. Thank you for being brave enough to let the world into just a snapshot of your intriguing family. An incredible show!
Back To The Future
One man whom I admire greatly is, of course, the Hollywood actor Michael J Fox. Back To The Future is most definitely an iconic part of my childhood! Not only has Micheal continued to work, (although he recently officially retired from acting in 2020). At the age of 29, he also launched the Michael J Fox Foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
I just admire his tenacity so much! I know how hard it can be, both physically and mentally to live your life so positively. And yet he has definitely become a shining example of courage and hope for others.
Me Before You
One film that I feel dealt with the whole issue of an acquired, life-changing disability superbly well is entitled “Me Before You.” Based on the book by JoJo Moyles, the movie tells the story of Will Trainer, played by the actor Sam Claflin. A highly successful banker and sportsman, he gets knocked off his motorcycle and overnight his whole world changes. He becomes tetraplegic and the film is about his insurmountable life afterwards.
The movie bravely tackles so many gut-wrenching topics including that of assisted suicide. It is a beautifully portrayed film with real humour and real love. In the end, Will Trainer chose his own way – in a sense, it was a huge signal to his disability and all of the people around him – that his mind would always be way stronger than his body. In the end, his mind was way stronger than his desire to carve out a new life for himself. One which in his opinion, was completely torn apart by disability. Therefore, despite finding true love with the character Louise Clarke – played by the very talented actress Emilia Clarke – Will took control of his own destiny… And it is for that reason that I didn’t cry many tears at all. Even the love that he found with Louise wasn’t enough to change his mind.
Emilia Clarke played her role absolutely beautifully too. Her character was strong, yet in many respects fragile, she was so full of life, so kind and funny. And although we have never met, I imagine that she is much like the character that she portrayed in this particular film. I had a pair of bumblebee tights just like hers!
Please also check out the amazing films entitled, “The Upside” and “Inside I’m Dancing.” These are all incredibly poignant films about disability. In recent years much has been made about there being a distinct lack of disabled actors playing the role of a disabled person. Whilst I fully understand this perhaps rather controversially, I myself do not particularly mind either way. So long as the actor does the job – and does it well.
My Checklist When Planning a Trip to the Theatre
- Do your research.
- With disability, travelling is sometimes not as accessible as it should be. Learn useful accessible travel tips for travelling around the UK here
- Find out if there is a disabled booking line.
- Find out which exact supporting evidence you need to bring along with you to the theatre as proof of your disability.
- Some of the bigger theatres now insist on you having a theatre membership card which will give you a unique code for you to be able to get the discounted tickets.
Check out: Shape Arts
Shape Arts is a disability-lead arts organisation which works to improve access to culture for disabled people by providing opportunities for disabled artists, training cultural institutions to be more open to disabled people, and through running participatory arts and development programmes.
Thank you for reading!
Always see your ability in disability!
P.S. It is a year ago since I started writing these blogs – I don’t know quite where the time has gone! I hope you are all still enjoying them!?!. Please like and share them on all of your social media platforms if you are a fan! Thank you.