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For the theatre festival, Crips without Constraints Part 2, presented by Graeae, Kellan Frankland has written a play addressing the stigma towards disabled performers within the entertainment industry. In How Do You Make A Cup of Tea?, Mandy Colleran as Frankie and Dame Harriet Walter as Sally explore the stereotypes and discrimination that disabled actors experience in an industry that claims to strive towards inclusivity.
Frankie and Sally are meeting on Zoom to discuss a play. After overcoming the first hurdles of technology and exchanging formalities, they realise that each of them has a different perception of the person on their computer screen. We soon find out that both are on the Zoom call assuming they are up for the same part. They are supposed to speak to each other for inspiration, research and assistance for the development of the character – who is written as a wheelchair user.
Sally has agreed to the Zoom call in an attempt to get to know a disabled person and understand their life. With post-it notes, that she sticks all across her face, she tries to manifest her impressions of Frankie and “analyse her character”. Discriminating assumptions are made, such as the idea that wheelchair users are not able to make tea, or that Frankie will not be able to see the play as there is no wheelchair ramp in the theatre. Sally uses words such as “depressed”, “deluded” and “arrogant” – characteristics that she claims she is seeing in Frankie. And so, it is up to the latter to fight the stigma and discrimination that she is receiving from the actress on her screen.
The play is described and commented on by voiceover artist David Young which conveys the feeling that, as an audience, we are spectators who are silently witnessing and simply accepting the injustice that is happening in front of our eyes. Walter and Colleran perform the controversial piece with conviction and earnestness, truly opening our eyes to the issues of discrimination and prejudice within the entertainment industry. That being the core topic of the piece, there is not much more to the story, and the play itself is missing certain peaks in the plot.
However, How Do You Make A Cup of Tea? is efficiently pointing its finger at the injustice that exists in our industry. It purposely shows how wrongly disabled actors are sometimes treated and how the fight for equality is not where it should be. Although lacking in nuance, through its directness, How Do You Make A Cup of Tea? highlights the areas in which our industry, and we as humans, need to improve. Stereotyping and prejudice are not something that belongs in our relationship with one another.
As Colleran states in the play: “You weren’t some passive observer. You weren’t the only one making bad decisions but that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible”.
How Do You Make A Cup of Tea? is playing online until 16 February 2021. For more information and tickets visit Graeae’s website.