Posted on Twitter on 12th February (Link: https://twitter.com/swkplay/status/1095327427071496192)
All in a Row is a new play primarily about the parents and carers of a severely disabled autistic 11-year-old child. I programmed it because I felt theirs was an important story to tell and as valid as anybody else’s.
The writer thought it was essential that the character of Laurence, the child in the play, was represented in the piece but felt it inappropriate for the creative team to cast a child, autistic or not, in the role. This was in the interest of child protection: the themes and some dialogue in the play are of an adult nature; also there was a desire to honestly depict the challenges of caring for someone with Laurence’s particular behaviour and needs, which meant portraying a certain physicality that would be unsafe for a child performer.
We understand that this has been controversial but within the aims of the project, and context of the piece, we support the decision by the writer and creative team on the show to use puppetry as a way to depict the character of Laurence.
Southwark Playhouse provides a platform for new and emerging theatre artists and practitioners to showcase their work and, sometimes, to use that platform to explore difficult subjects. We are aware that some may have made their minds up about the piece already but we would encourage people to experience the play first-hand and to have a constructive discussion (about what we got right as well as what we got wrong) and how disability, and particularly in this case, profound disability, is represented on stage.
Chris Smyrnios, Artistic Director, Southwark Playhouse