Lockdown Zoom plays by disabled artists 'without constraints'

Dame Harriet Walter and Mandy Colleran in How Do You Make a Cup of Tea?

Dame Harriet Walter and Mandy Colleran in How Do You Make a Cup of Tea? - Credit: Graeae Theatre Company

The latest in a series of Zoom plays from Hackney's Graeae Theatre tackles everything from sibling rivalry to an awkward meeting between ex lovers.

Crips Without Constraints Part 2 is the work of deaf and disabled writers and directors, and feature performances by Dame Harriet Walter, Sharon D. Clarke, Mandy Colleran, Julie Graham and Naomi Wirthner.

The project started in spring 2020 at the height of the first lockdown with an acclaimed series of 11 new works filmed on Zoom and streamed online while Graeae's Kingsland Road headquarters was closed. The five new duologues, which began on January 19, are released every Tuesday until February 16.

Kelland Frankland's How Do You Make A Cup of Tea? poses the thorny question of who has a right to play who? Dame Harriet is the outrageously entitled Sally, pumping wheelchair user Frankie for tips on playing a disabled character.

"I want to walk in your shoes. Do you have special shoes?" and; "How do you feel about never being a mother?" are among Sally's more offensive questions as Frankie, who believed she was cast in the part, blasts her useless agent for forcing her to help a non-disabled actor "crip-up".


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As she plasters her face with post-it notes to give her "active" inspiration, Sally seems less and less sure that she'd be "perfect for the job".

"This could be the biggest challenge of my career" she bleats, as Frankie explains furiously that she is complicit with a discriminatory industry for accepting the job. A voiceover later namechecks Scarlett Johansson and Jake Gyllenhaal for "their excuses". It's broad comedy with a painful point, powerfully made. But Sally is so awful that her assertion "it's an actor's job to play someone that they are not," is lost. It could be a starter for 10 for a whole other show.

Graeae Theatre Company in Kingsland Road. Picture: Graeae Theatre Company

Graeae Theatre Company in Kingsland Road. Picture: Graeae Theatre Company - Credit: Graeae Theatre Company

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All the writers are alumni from Graeae’s Write to Play programme and Nickie Miles-Wildin, Associate Director says: “It’s exciting that disabled writers are being given the platform they deserve. Such an eclectic mix of stories that have been creatively told using the digital world of online communication."

Rebekah Bowsher's Flowers For The Chateaux tells how a woman discovers her future son in law's mother is the ex who dumped her years before. Leanna Benjamin's The Gift sees a pregnant woman forced to make a terrible choice, Stuck With You by Jessica Lovett airs sibling rivalry as two sisters clash over wedding preparations. And in Good Day Bad Day a woman picks a fight with herself.

Crips Without Constraints Part 2

Crips Without Constraints Part 2 - Credit: Graeae Theatre Company

All pieces are captioned and audio described available to watch through Graeae’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnVd2evEVTvRzkMMtX0M3g and website https://graeae.org/

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