Jamie Hale in a blue shirt with red hair, glasses and beard

I’m delighted to have received one of the Evening Standard Future Theatre Fund Awards in Directing and Theatre-Making.

Jamie Hale in a blue shirt with red hair, glasses and beard

I was nominated back in November by the Barbican Centre – probably because of my solo show, NOT DYING (dir. Kate O’Donnell), which I staged there as part of CRIPtic 2019. My nomination was in a category for people who’d had theatre training, so I was startled to be shortlisted – but also optimistic. Not necessarily about my chances of winning, but out of a sense that the theatre world is changing – and that a submission that focussed on disability and access could be seen as important by a judging panel that included Kwame Kwei-Armah and Paul Roseby.

By the time the interviews came around, I was in the depths of a family tragedy, and barely coherent when faced by Matthew Xia and Kwame. When asked how I felt when shortlisted, I said I was staggered – that I just hadn’t expected it. Kwame asked why I’d applied then, and I said something about never turning down opportunities, and hoping that they’d be interested in something new. We had a conversation which I barely remember about NOT DYING, then I was told Matthew had something to tell me – that I’d won.

I burst into tears – partly due to the family tragedy and timing, partly due to what the money could mean for my career, partly out of what Kwame said about looking forward to welcoming me to his theatre – and partly because I realised that the future of theatre really was making space for disabled artists.

I was even more blown away on awards night to see that the four artists nominated by Graeae (a d/Deaf and disabled-led theatre company) three won. Out of the six categories, in which there were two winners each, a d/Deaf or disabled person won in at least four (myself in theatre-making/directing, Adam Fenton in acting, Beth Hinton-Lever in musical theatre and Nikki Charlesworth in visual design). I don’t know whether either of the winners in the audio-design or the breakout awards were disabled – but even if not, 5/12 of the winners were disabled.

This really shows me that we can be the future of theatre. That theatre sees us, our voices, our stories, and our talents as its future.

So, what am I doing with that?

The only answer is CRIPtic! We’ve had over 50 amazing applicants, and now it’s onto the process of shortlisting them all for interview. Knowing the extent to which d/Deaf and disabled people are seen as the future of theatre… well, you’d better watch where we’re going.