Imperfect premieres at Slamdance Film Festival from January 27, 2022 – February 6, 2022.
William Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts”. I doubt many of you would disagree with these words spoken by Jaques in As You Like It; after all, our lives are a grand play split into many acts. But some of us rarely see ourselves or our unique journey represented on stage. Therefore, while the whole world may be a stage, our entire world is seldom represented in all its diversity and wonder.
For people with disabilities, this lack of representation has long been a reality. After all, if I was to ask you when you last saw a Broadway or West End show with disabilities actively represented in the cast, what would your answer be? Last year? Sometime ago? Or, more than likely, never! But why is that? Are we really saying people with disabilities don’t have talent, amazing singing voices or showstopping acting abilities? Of course, many will argue that similar restrictions and barriers face a range of performers, from the colour of their skin to their sexual orientation or gender. But are any of these characteristics sidelined to the same extent as a disability on stage, on TV or in films?
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That’s not to say that progress isn’t being made; after all, we just had our first deaf Strictly Come Dancing winner here in the UK. While at the same time, The National Theatre has slowly progressed in inclusive programming and relaxed performances and representation. Equally, there is a range of fantastic theatre programmes and groups aimed at removing barriers to representation, for example, Minding the Gap.
Across the pond in Colorado, the Phamaly Theatre Company has provided an essential home for theatre artists with disabilities since 1989. Their affirmative model of inclusion and representation aimed at transforming the perceptions and barriers to disability on stage. Here, Regan Linton and Brian Malone’s documentary Imperfect finds its voice as Phamaly prepares to produce the musical Chicago.
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However, Imperfect is not just the story of a dedicated, talented cast and production crew who happen to have disabilities ranging from physical impairments to sensory loss, spinal injury, autism, and Parkinson’s. It is the story of life with a disability and the barriers, challenges and obstacles society often places in the way. Here Linton and Regan follow several cast members as they explore the upcoming performance, their life outside of the theatre and, for some, the disabilities that suddenly invaded their lives. However, there is nothing over-sentimental or tokenistic in the story Regan and Linton weave as we follow Lucy, Adam, Megan, Sam, Laurice and Leonard. Here, we have an honest, open and revealing portrait of a family of strong, talented individuals who embrace every opportunity and refuse to allow their disabilities to define them.
The result is a documentary that lifts the curtain on a need for full representation and equity across the arts. While at the same time asking us all to reflect on the social barriers that force an individual’s exclusion. Here Regan and Malone’s documentary goes beyond a mere celebration of Phamaly and its work. Imperfect tackles much broader themes of representation, opportunity, and involvement and deserves a standing ovation for doing so. But it also demands action and progress in changing the cultural landscape of disability in the arts, a demand we should not only hear but act upon.
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Regan and Malone’s documentary goes beyond a mere celebration of Phamaly and its work. Imperfect tackles much broader themes of representation, opportunity, and involvement and deserves a standing ovation for doing so.