Jamie Beddard (born 28 August 1966) is one of the UK's leading disabled theatre practitioners. He is a writer, actor, director and workshop leader as well as a trainer and consultant. He was editor of DAIL Magazine during the 1990s, has worked as Diversity Officer at Arts Council England, was Associate Director at Graeae Theatre Company, is a Senior Associate at Diverse City and Director of The Big Lounge Collective which he co-founded in 2011. He has achieved the honour of Clore Fellow.
Beddard attended Thomas Delarue School in Tonbridge, Kent, which, established by The National Spastics Society in 1955, was the first grammar school for disabled people. The Headmaster, Richard Tomlinson was a co-founder of Graeae Theatre Company, where Beddard would later work as an actor, writer and director. Beddard was among the first disabled students to graduate from the University of Kent, with a degree in Sociology. Not all of Beddard's family were in creative professions. His grandfathers were both sportsmen; one being a fencer in the London Olympics and the other a Cambridge Blue. Beddard followed the Olympic tradition by directing 'Breathe/Battle of the Winds' for the Opening Ceremony (Sailing) of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on Weymouth Beach. Beddard lives in North London with his partner Jo and children Llewelyn and Willow.
Beddard is an established artist who entered into the Disability arts world with no traditional performance training. In his own words, his career began "through a bizarre set of circumstances [when I] was jettisoned onto a film set, and a journey through the hinterlands of performance began." According to Jonathan Meth in the Guardian, seeing Beddard on a poster for Graeae Theatre Company's production of Ubu inspired Daryl Beeton, former Artistic Director of Kazzum Theatre to enter the profession.
- Walking Among Sleepers (Jo Rawlinson & Caroline Parker)
- A Fading Light (Paines Plough, Graeae Theatre Company)
- Life Support (Writenet/Soho Theatre)
Beddard has written a number of articles around Disability Arts and Performance:
- The importance of being disabled, 2009 (Guardian)
- Jamie Beddard is Unwell... in India, 2004 (BBC Ouch)
- The disability meal ticket, 2003 (BBC Ouch)
Beddard has held various Company positions and directed a range of cross-media productions. He was Associate Director at Graeae Theatre Company (2005–2007) and at Diverse City (2008–2010). He was Guest Director for the Disabled Actors Theatre Company in 2011, and returned to Diverse City as Guest Director in 2012. He is Director of The Big Lounge Collective (2011 – present).
His productions include Fluff, Jackson's Lane (2004), The Last Freakshow, Fittings Multi-Media Arts (2005), The Trouble with Richard, Graeae Theatre Company (2005), The Drowned World, Edinburgh Traverse (2005), The Bigger Picture, Greenwich Theatre (2006), Pinocchio, Theatre Royal Stratford (2006), Reclaiming the Medical Model, Diverse City/Metropolitan University (2007), The Last Freakshow, Disabled Actors Theatre Company (2008), Didn't We Have a Lovely Time, Diverse City (2009), Can I Be Frank With You, Disabled Actors Theatre Company (2011) and Breathe (Battle of the Winds), Diverse City (2012).
Beddard has an extensive Acting career which include roles in Theatre, TV and Film.
Beddard's most recent appearance was in The Threepenny Opera (National Theatre) in 2016 which was heralded as "a brilliant move" in a review by The Telegraph, which awarded the show three stars. Variety's review was equally mixed, though it praised Beddard's contribution: "Jamie Beddard, an actor with cerebral palsy, scor[es] with every punchline." His performance was also picked up on in the Financial Times: "Jamie Beddard plays the most astute of Macheath's lieutenants, largely from a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, but makes every expletive ring through the Olivier." Beddard's appearance in the production was mentioned by Vikki Heyward in The Stage as indicative of "a new era of theatre, an era of acceptance and realisation that Deaf and disabled people should be – and can be – involved in a variety of shows" Mark Shenton in his review of the show, also in The Stage remarked: "It is also notable, because it’s so rare, to see a wheelchair-using actor, Jamie Beddard, among the ensemble."
This came at a time when the National Theatre were starting to change its auditioning policy by responding to The Creative Case and opening its doors to disabled actors. As Disability Arts Online's Editor, Colin Hambrook observed in a review of the show: "aside from Nabil Shaban, Beddard is the only other wheelchair-using actor to tread the boards of the National Theatre in a pivotal role." Rufus Norris, Artistic Director at National Theatre who directed the production, has since reiterated his desire to work with Beddard again, telling The Stage: "Next time [I want to work with a disabled actor] I will think of Jamie, I won't think 'I need to find some disabled performers'".
Prior to becoming Associate Director at Graeae Theatre Company, Beddard had a number of acting roles with the company. These include the title role in Ubu (1994), and Christian in Fittings (2000). Beddard's portrayal of Corbaccio in Flesh Fly (1997) garnered commentary in literary criticism volumes about Ben Jonson's play. Marshall Botvinick described Graeae's production as 'possibly the most innovative staging [of the play] to date' and remarked: 'Jamie Beddard, an actor with cerebral palsy played the part of Corbaccio, making it much harder for an audience to laugh at Corbaccio's many ailments'. Beddard's portrayal was also singled out in Ben Jonson and Theatre: Performance, Practice and Theory for the way it confronted the prejudices of non-disabled audience members: 'it was less easy for the able-bodied members of the audience to laugh...though the disabled members of the audience found [Beddard's] performance uproarious, as if they had earned the right to laugh. Here that factionalising of the audience which Jonson frequently promotes came forcefully alive to one's awareness, causing one to question the grounds on which one might laugh.'
Beddard played the role of Mathieu in Traverse Theatre's 2007 production, 15 Seconds which was awarded three stars by the Guardian, with Mark Fisher highlighting Beddard's performance: "[Mathieu] is played by Jamie Beddard with a great forlorn frown, dreamy eyes and a deadpan black humour that cleverly undercuts our expectations of the character and the actor's disability."
His other theatre roles are
- Estragon in Waiting for Godot, Tottering Bipeds (1998)
- The Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland, Nottingham Playhouse (1998)
- Voldov in The Bound Man, Battersea Arts Centre (1999)
- Francious in The Fly, Manchester Royal Exchange (2003)
- Quassimodo in The Kings of Fools, DASH (2006)
- Roger in Natural Diversions, Natural Theatre Company (2013)
Beddard has performed in Carrie's War twice, both times playing Mr Johnny at Apollo, Shaftsbury Avenue (2009), and for Novel Theatre (2011). The former was awarded four stars by The Telegraph with Beddard described as providing "fine support".
TV and film
In the 1990s, Beddard played the lead Arthur in the BBC2 Screenplay Skalligrigg (1994) and Mike Bradley in ID for BBC Films (1995). He starred as Terry in Poland Productions' Trouble with Terry (1998) and played Gavin in BBC TV's production of Common as Muck (1999). In the same year Beddard played Rolandn Adams on the BBC made-for-TV film All the King's Men.
In the 2000s, he played the leading role of Man, in Channel 4's production of Access All Areas (2000), going on to play Nobby in Hartwood Films' Wonderful You (2001) and a few years later played Gobber in Quills for Carlton Films (2005). He played Johnny for BBC Wales' production of Carrie's War (2004), with The Movie Scene praising the "great casting". In 2002, Beddard played the leading role of Driver, this time for BBC1's The Egg.
He played Elvis for Beaconsfield Films' The Outcasts and Jamie for Turtle Canyon's Wheels, both in 2012.
Beddard starred alongside Jason Williamson from the Sleaford Mods in the 2017 short film, Lost Dog, which The Irish News described as "a tiny yet thought-provoking slice of life in 'austerity Britain'".
Disability rights work
Beddard has been an outspoken advocate of rights for disability rights and for more disabled people to have roles within the creative industries. Beddard has commented "I aint broke, you don't need to fix me." This came as part of his focus group response for the 'Re-framing Disability' Exhibition in 2011 which looked at judgements and portrayal of historical representations of disabled people with comparisons to today. In an interview in 2016 with Disability Arts Online Beddard remarked:
"I’d like to see theatre become more inclusive. I love football and having relaxed performances makes theatre more like football. You should be able to go to theatre and engage with it. It is a scary time to be a disabled person, and so many of my contemporaries are desperately struggling, both, to work and survive. I feel a responsibility to the majority of disabled people who are finding life increasingly difficult, as Access to Work, the Independent Living Fund and care packages are savaged, and any gains we have made over last thirty years are consigned to history."
Beddard has also been critical of non-disabled actors playing disabled roles, writing in 2009 article for the Guardian:
"Unfortunately, some industry people still struggle with the idea that disabled actors may be best-placed to play disabled characters, and continue to represent disability through clouded prisms of metaphor and caricature. Non-disabled actors boost their red carpet prospects by offensively replicating impairments, as if physical appearance alone is shorthand for capturing the essence and character of a disabled protagonist. If he can imitate impairment, give him an Oscar."
- "'What Does a Leader Look Like?' by Jamie Beddard | The Clore Leadership Programme". www.cloreleadership.org. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- "Students in the 1970's". tds.org.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- Astbury, Brian (6 September 2006). "Richard Tomlinson". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
- "Stage Right – Jamie Beddard" (PDF). Kent Bulletin (42 Spring 2004). University of Kent.
- "BBC – Ouch! (disability) – Interviews – 13 Questions: Jamie Beddard". Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- "The Maritime Mix: Guide to London 2012 Cultural Olympiad by the sea". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "Art and Sport" (PDF). Our View. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Meth, Jonathan (3 September 2015). "Disability arts: the challenge of ensuring creative momentum". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
- Owen, Gary (13 March 2014). The Drowned World. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408149874.
- Beddard, James (22 July 2009). "The importance of being disabled". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "BBC – Ouch! (disability) – Features – Jamie Beddard is Unwell ... in India". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "BBC – Ouch! (disability) – Features – The disability meal ticket". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "Directing". Jamie Beddard. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "The Threepenny Opera, Royal National Theatre, review: 'It chills more than it thrills'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Trueman, Matt (29 May 2016). "London Theater Review: 'The Threepenny Opera' with Rory Kinnear". Variety. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- Shuttleworth, Ian (29 May 2016). "The Threepenny Opera, National Theatre (Olivier), London – 'Still salient'". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "Theatre 2016 preview: What will leaders discuss at theatre's biggest event? | Features | The Stage". The Stage. 5 May 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "The Threepenny Opera review at National Theatre, London". The Stage. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- Hambrook, Colin. "Jamie Beddard on disability, politics and his latest role at the National Theatre". Disability Arts Online. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Hambrook, Colin. "The National Theatre present The Threepenny Opera". Disability Arts Online. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- "Rufus Norris: Casting from inner circle has been barrier to disabled actors | News | The Stage". The Stage. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- Botvinick, Marshall (1 May 2015). Jonson: Volpone. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781137379825.
- Cave, Richard; Schafer, Elizabeth; Woolland, Brian (20 June 2005). Ben Jonson and Theatre: Performance, Practice and Theory. Routledge. pp. 207–208. ISBN 9781134680931.
- Fisher, Mark (19 March 2003). "15 Seconds". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- "Acting". Jamie Beddard. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- Spencer, By Charles. "Carrie's War, at the Apollo Theatre – review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- "BFI Screenonline: Skallagrigg (1994)". screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- 2BenefitPeople (1 July 2012), Skallagrigg (1994), retrieved 29 March 2017
- "Jamie Beddard Filmography". IMDb. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
- "All the King's Men – BBC One London – 14 November 1999 – BBC Genome". BBC. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "Carrie's War – BBC One London – 1 January 2004 – BBC Genome". BBC. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "Carrie's War (2004) starring Alun Armstrong, Keeley Fawcett, Geraldine McEwan, Pauline Quirke, Lesley Sharp directed by Coky Giedroyc – movie review on The Movie Scene". themoviescene.co.uk. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- "The Egg – BBC Two England – 2 October 2002 – BBC Genome". BBC. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- "BBC NEWS | Programmes | Breakfast | Disability series". BBC. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- "Acting". Jamie Beddard. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Roy, David. "Watch this: Lost Dog". The Irish News. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- "'I ain't broke, you don't need to fix me' – Jamie Beddard". RCP London. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2016.