Mat Fraser (actor)

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Mat Fraser
Mat Fraser 02A.jpg
Mat Fraser performing in 2008, removing his artificial arms
Born1962 (age 59–60)
Colchester, England
Years active1980–present
SpouseJulie Atlas Muz (2012–present)

Mat Fraser (born 1962) is an English rock musician, actor, writer and performance artist. He has thalidomide-induced phocomelia.[1] In 2017, he was cast to play Shakespeare's Richard III at the Hull Truck Theatre as part of Hull City of Culture 2017.[2]

Musical career[edit]

Between 1980 and 1995 Fraser was a drummer with several rock bands including Fear of Sex, The Reasonable Strollers, Joyride, The Grateful Dub, and Living in Texas, who had a number one single in Italy.[3] Fraser played the drums with Graeae Theatre Company's "Reasons to be Cheerful" at the 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony, where he also hosted the pre-televised section,[4][5] and with Coldplay during the closing ceremony.[6][7]

Acting career[edit]

Fraser left drumming to join Graeae Theatre Company, Europe's leading disabled theatre company, after their production of Ubu inspired him to change careers.[8] He worked in forum theatre for Graeae for several months, then landed the part of Dr Prentice in Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw.[9] He is now a patron of Graeae.[10] Subsequent theatre roles in the 1990s included the Group K production of Marisol and the title role in Johnny Sol at the Croydon Warehouse.[11]

He wrote 2005's Thalidomide!! A Musical, in which he and Anna Winslet played all the roles.

His first major television role was in the three-part World War II drama series Unknown Soldier (ITV, 1998).[12]

In 2003 he appeared as the seer Calchas in the television miniseries Helen of Troy based on Homer's Iliad. In 2009 he appeared in Channel Four's Cast Offs, a six-part comedy-drama series satirising reality television .[13] Fraser has been associated with the use of the term "spacking up" to describe when a non-disabled actor plays the part of a disabled person rather than the part going to a disabled actor, as a play on "blacking up", used to describe the controversial practice where non-black actors take on the characters of black people. The term was actually coined by one of the show's writers, in the line "spacking up is the new blacking up".[14]

Fraser has appeared on television in a number of other productions including Metrosexuality[15] and Every Time You Look at Me.[16][17]

His film Kung Fu Flid was released in 2009, starring Faye Tozer (formerly of pop group Steps), Frank Harper and Terry Stone.[18]

Fraser appeared in the RTÉ One soap opera Fair City in June 2011,[19] playing Esther's son David.[20]

In 2012 he appeared in Kaite O'Reilly's stage play In Water I'm Weightless as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.[21]

Fraser was one of the regular cast members in the fourth season of the US TV series American Horror Story: Freak Show.[22] He also appears as Roger in the TV series Loudermilk.

In May 2017, Fraser was cast as Shakespeare's King Richard III, ‘a disabled guy gets cast as a disabled guy’, a role he discussed with Emma Tracey, presenter for BBC Radio's service for disabled people, "Ouch".[23]

In 2019, Fraser played Raymond Van Geritt in the BBC One adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.[24] In 2020, Fraser would write and curate the BBC Four disability series Criptales.[25][26]

Television presenting[edit]

Fraser was one of the original co-hosts of the BBC's Ouch! Podcast.[27] He presented the short-lived Channel 4 series Freak Out.[28] He presented the 2004 Channel 4 documentary Happy Birthday Thalidomide, documenting how the drug was being used in Brazil to treat leprosy, but that its use in a country with low levels of literacy and a black market in drugs was leading to new thalidomide births.[29]


Fraser played the lead character, Sparky, in BBC Radio Four's Saturday Playhouse production, "Inmates" (1997), by Allan Sutherland and Stuart Morris.[30]

He was a regular performer on the BBC Radio Four sketch show "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie".[28]


Fraser has released two rap albums:

  • "Survival of the Shittest"[31]
  • "Genetically Modified...Just For You" (2000)[32]

Freak shows[edit]

Fraser has shown a continuing interest in freak shows.

His 2001 play 'Sealboy: Freak' draws on the life history of Stanislaus Berent, a sideshow performer with naturally occurring phocomelia who worked under the stage name Sealo.[33]

Fraser's 2002 television documentary, Born Freak, looked at this historical tradition and its relevance to modern disabled performers. This work has become the subject of academic analysis in the field of disability studies.[34]

As part of the documentary, Fraser performed in a Coney Island freak show. He was invited to return to work there professionally and has since worked several summer seasons there.

Fraser's 2011 show, From Freak to Clique, charted the history of portrayals of disability, including freak show performers.[35]

In 2014, Fraser went on to have a role as Paul the Illustrated Seal in American Horror Story: Freak Show. He played Jessica Lange's love interest in several episodes.

"Cabinet of Curiosities"[edit]

Fraser was commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester to create a new artistic work, shaped out of a collaborative engagement with museum collections, research and expertise in medical history, museums and disability. The resulting performance, "Cabinet of Curiosities: How disability was kept in a box" was performed at the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds; the Silk Mill Museum, Derby; and Manchester Museum. It won the Observer Ethical Awards, Arts and Culture 2014.[36]

The Guardian's Lyn Gardner stated that, "by making a spectacle of himself, Fraser is not only raising the spectre of the Victorian freak show but also subverting it by questioning what is exhibited and what isn't, and making us confront what we are shown and what we are not shown, both in art and in life".[37]

American pantomime[edit]

On 6 December 2017 Fraser and his wife Julie Atlas Muz presented Jack and the Beanstalk, the first large-scale pantomime to be presented in New York for over a century, at the Playhouse Theater of the Henry Street Settlement. Adapted from the fairy tale of the same title by Fraser and directed by Muz, the production also starred Dirty Martini, Matt Roper, David Ilku and a cast of other downtown performers. Awarded the NYT Critic's Pick, the production closed on 23 December 2017 and enjoyed a revival the following year at the same theatre, running for three weeks during the 2018 holiday season. On 4 December 2021 a follow-up, Dick Rivington and The Cat, adapted from the traditional pantomime story of Dick Whittington, was presented by the pair.

Personal life[edit]

Fraser married Julie Atlas Muz, an American neo-burlesque star, in May 2012 in New York City.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Mat Fraser: Kicking disability into touch". Daily Express. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Georgia Snow: Mat Fraser to lead cast of Richard III". The Stage. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Pinchbottom: Mat Fraser". Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b Flippers and strippers – Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas MuzTime Out London, 31 August 2012 Archived 15 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b From Paraphilia to Paralympics with Mat Fraser This is Cabaret, 8 September 2012
  6. ^ Disabled drummer gets biggest gig of his life as he joins Coldplay at Games finale London Evening Standard, 10 September 2012
  7. ^ As it happened: Paralympic closing ceremony BBC Sport, 9 September 2012
  8. ^ Vernon, Sarah (2004). "Rogues and Vagabonds".
  9. ^ "The Guardian". The Guardian. 3 March 1999.
  10. ^ "Graeae".
  11. ^ "B.F.I."
  12. ^ "B.F.I. Screenonline".
  13. ^ Craig, Olga (21 November 2009). "The Daily Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph.
  14. ^ I'm a bit surprised to be referred to as “you people”… Isn't that kind of condescending? (Irish Times), 6 March 2010
  15. ^ "IMDb". Internet Movie Database.
  16. ^ "Every Time You Look At Me - a contemporary love story for BBC TWO". (Press release). BBC. 19 March 2004.
  17. ^ Schillinger, Liesl (30 January 2005). "Arms and the Man: The Star of 'The Flid Show'". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  18. ^ Kung Fu Flid at IMDb
  19. ^ Man on a mission Irish Times, 7 June 2011 (subscription required)
  20. ^ "David Osbourne played by Mat Fraser". Fair City. Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011.
  21. ^ O'Reilly, Kaite (12 March 2013). "20 Questions: Mat Fraser".
  22. ^ Oswell, Paul (26 December 2014). "The Guardian". The Guardian.
  23. ^ "Richard III: A disabled guy gets cast as a disabled guy". BBC. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  24. ^ "BBC and Bad Wolf unveil cast and creative team of His Dark Materials". BBC. 27 July 2018.
  25. ^ Lee, Janet W. (14 September 2020). "BBC America to Premiere 'CripTales' in October (EXCLUSIVE)".
  26. ^ Magazine, Enable (11 November 2020). "INTERVIEW: Mat Fraser discusses disabled writers and promoting disabled voices during new BBC Four series, CripTales - Enable Magazine".
  27. ^ Ouch! It's a disability thing, BBC
  28. ^ a b "Abnormally Funny People".
  29. ^ Fraser, Mat (30 March 2004). "The Guardian". The Guardian.
  30. ^ "BBC".
  31. ^ "Discogs:Survival Of The Shittest". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Discogs:Genetically-Modified Just-For-You". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  33. ^ "B.F.I. Screenonline".
  34. ^ Mitchell, David; Snyder, Sharon (Summer 2005). "Exploitations of Embodiment: Born Freak and the Academic Bally Plank". Disability Studies Quarterly. 25 (3). doi:10.18061/dsq.v25i3.575.
  35. ^ "Theatermania".
  36. ^ "University of Leicester".
  37. ^ Gardner, Lyn (22 January 2014). "The Guardian". The Guardian.

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