Theatre calls for learning disability Oscar winner

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Liam Bairstow plays Alex Warner in Coronation Street

An inclusive theatre group is challenging the film industry to ensure an actor with a learning disability wins an Oscar by 2030.

Hijinx tour theatres across the UK and train actors with learning disabilities to feature in their shows.

Hijinx’s Clare Williams said: “It would be shocking to see an actor ‘black up’ to play a character of colour.

“In 2018 it is equally unacceptable for a non-learning disabled actor to play… a learning disabled character.”

Hijinx said that since the Oscars began in 1929, 16% of best actor and actress awards have been for portrayals of disability or mental illness.

These include Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, Geoffrey Rush as David Helfott in Shine and Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.

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Hijinx Theatre

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The Hijinx theatre group said they are there to help TV and film companies

The Welsh company is also calling for an actor with a learning disability to pick up a Bafta by 2028 and a Bafta Cymru by 2025.

The group has produced guidelines detailing how casting and portrayal of learning disabled actors should work in the film and TV industry.

The recommendations include creating more storylines with learning disabled actors, avoiding stereotypes when creating characters and offering more appropriate auditions i.e. including non-script-based castings for those who find reading challenging.

The Welsh minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, was among those to support Hijinx’s recommendations: “I admire the boldness of Hijinx’s call for action within the screen industry and wholeheartedly support their aims of truly reflecting our society on our screens.”

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