Globe theatre adds 'ableism' warning to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre adds ‘ableism’ trigger warning to A Midsummer Night’s Dream after hiring actress with dwarfism to play character ridiculed over their height
- Francesca Mills was born with Achondroplasia – a common form of dwarfism
- She uses terms like ‘minimus’ and retorts ‘Little’ again! Nothing but low and little’
Shakespeare’s Globe has put an ableism warning on its latest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream after hiring an actress with dwarfism to play a character insulted over her height.
The comedy, written in the late 16th century, is set in Athens and tells the story of four rebellious lovers who get lost in a magical forest – including the warring Hermia and Helena.
The two female characters are both said to be beautiful and enjoy a close friendship, but physical opposites in terms of height, hair and skin tone.
The Globe has confirmed that the warning has been added because the actress who plays Hermia, Francesca Mills, was born with the genetic disorder Achondroplasia – a common form of dwarfism.
Ms Mills, who has played roles in The Witcher and Worzel Gummidge, uses terms such as ‘minimus’ and regularly retorts ‘Little’ again! Nothing but low and little’. Helena also uses the famous line towards her: ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce.’
The Globe has confirmed the warning has been added because the actress who plays Hermia, Francesca Mills, was born with the genetic disorder Achondroplasia – a common form of dwarfism
Shakespeare’s Globe (pictured) has put an ableism warning on its latest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
When theatregoers buy a ticket on the Globe’s website, they are now confronted with a trigger warning for sensitive themes including ableism – along with racism and misogyny.
A post on the theatre’s website reads: ‘Content guidance: The play contains language of violence, ableism, misogyny and racism, and scenes of a sexual nature.
READ MORE: Globe puts ‘misogyny and racism’ warning on Shakepeare classic
‘Please contact the ticketing team… if you would like further details on the play’s content.’
The play is directed by Pentabus Theatre’s Artistic Director Elle While and features the globe’s Artistic Director Michelle Terry as Puck.
It is running at the Globe, on London’s South Bank, from May 15 until August 12 and tickets cost from £5 to £65.
Disabled campaigners say they welcome the new warnings, but argue the play as a whole is ableist.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant Sophia Moreau said: ‘It’s about time theatres warned audiences of ableist content. Many historic plays reflect the attitudes of their time regarding disability, making a mockery of the presentation of disability and the tribulations faced by disabled people.
‘This isn’t unique to Shakespeare, but it was well established by Shakespeare’s time.
‘For example, in the Jacobean play “The Changeling” by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, there is a subplot in a madhouse where at least part of the humour of the play is derived from the patients – referred to as “fools” and “madmen”.
‘This reflected a time where there were ticketed viewings of unwell people in asylums as a form of entertainment and tourist attraction, a practice which happened in real life at the Royal Bethlehem hospital.
‘An entire group of people, already facing structural disadvantage, have been used as a punching bag for entertainment for centuries.
‘To this day, we still haven’t confronted the stigma faced by disabled people and those suffering from mental illnesses.’
Francesca Mills pictured attending the World Premiere of The Witcher: Season 2 at Odeon Luxe, Leicester Square, in December 2021
Ms Mills, who has played roles in The Witcher and Worzel Gummidge, uses terms such as ‘minimus’ and regularly retorts ‘Little’ again! Nothing but low and little’. Pictured: The actress with Zach Wyatt, Lizzie Annis and Huw Novelli
Emily Ingram, who describes herself as a disabled, chronically ill, neurodiverse theatre director ‘with a strong interest in exploring Shakespeare’s work through queer, disabled, and feminist lenses’, added: ‘We should not be surprised at all to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream joining the ranks of Shakespeare plays given ableism warnings.
‘After all, throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, bodies that differ from norms are treated with contempt and fear.
‘Helena and especially Hermia’s heights are the target of slurs, ridicule and insults in Act III, Scene II; Bottom’s physical transformation in Act III, Scene I causes panic amongst his fellow mechanicals; and in the play’s closing moments in an extraordinarily ableist song, Oberon – in cheery verse – wishes each couple a happy marriage by casting a spell to ensure each marriage does not produce children with birthmarks, birth anomalies.’
A description of the play on the website reads: ‘Join the revellers this summer as mother nature envelops the Globe Theatre for Shakespeare’s deliciously disruptive and intoxicating comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
‘On midsummer’s eve, four rebellious young lovers, a band of ambitious artisan players, and a feuding Fairy King and Queen all cross paths in a riotously enchanted forest.
‘When the shapeshifting, mischief-making Puck, the Fairy King’s servant, is ordered to cast spells on everyone, what could possibly go wrong?
‘All hell breaks loose as nature, and human nature, are turned upside down and inside out; the forest’s new inhabitants are in for a wild and unsettling night of love, jealousy and utter confusion… but once the nightmare is over, will life be a dream again by morning?’
The Globe has been contacted for comment.
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