Hearing that Jamie Beddard, a British actor with a disability who first came to notice in the ground-breaking UK TV movie Skalegrig, was appearing in a London stage adaptation of the children’s novel Carrie’s War raised cause for both concern and excitement. Concern because the character of Mr. Johnny (played by Jamie), is laughed at by other characters for being “scary” … and excitement because, if correctly portrayed, this same character could be a powerful influence on theatres reluctant to hire disabled actors.
Originally penned by popular author Nina Bawden, this is the story of Carrie and her younger brother Nick who are evacuated to Wales during the Second World War. In her new relationships, Carrie must choose who to put her faith in.
Staged last September at the Apollo Theatre in Piccadilly, London, it wasn’t entirely surprising that children in the audience echoed Carrie’s fear when Mr. Johnny first staggers on stage with a purposeful swagger and exaggerated impaired speech. Silhouetted against the night sky backdrop, the sight caused Carrie to scream. But, with subtle direction and gentle exposure of Mr. Johnny’s good-natured character, we are ultimately taken with him on his on-stage journey. To the kids, it is no longer a shock when he appears, but a delight. Beddard immerses himself completely in the role, bringing natural charm to the character.
It's a shame that Jamie’s first London stage appearance was in a play that did not generate major notice. But this isn’t a reflection of the acting abilities of the cast; their portrayals were all praiseworthy. For Jamie, we’re sure this is a new beginning. It would be criminal, based on this performance, to suggest otherwise.
You can visit the source of this excerpt, http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk, to read the full article about this performance as well as other news and events.
Submitted by Karen Moye Stallings, Rossi Fund Coordinator for the Developmental Disabilities Council of North Carolina. Karen has long been active in the fight for inclusion for people of all abilities.