Letter: Disabled actors deserve a chance

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The Independent Online
Sir: Thomas Sutcliffe is wrong on several counts (Tabloid; "Last night", 4 August). Channel 4's new sitcom, House Gang, was never intended to "confront discrimination", nor is its primary purpose educational.

This series is in the best tradition of Aussie soap/sitcom - it's lightweight, a little tacky, but it's also warm, entertaining and engaging. Yes, the acting might be stilted in places, the script a mite rough around the edges, but these are wrinkles that can be ironed out in the second series.

In his desperate attempts to write a sweetly reasonable, politically correct review Mr Sutcliffe misses the point, which is that House Gang is groundbreaking television: for the first time people with disabilities are portrayed in a mainstream sitcom and - wow - they are not the usual stereotypical type, the superheroes battling against the odds, the bitter self-pitying no-hopers, the villains or the bad guys.

Trev, Belinda and Robert are, as Mr Sutcliffe concedes, "competent" and "sassy". They are fully rounded characters, in control of their lives, and throughout the series they are shown coping with ordinary everyday ups and downs, traumas and irritations that anyone - disabled or not - might encounter when sharing a house.

Disabled people are tired of always being defined by disability, medical condition or narrow doorways. Most disabled people are disabled by attitudes, not physical barriers, and all we want is to be given the same chances in life as everyone else - including the chance to train for, to audition for, and to perform in mainstream drama on the same terms as able-bodied actors. And that means the same terms, Mr Sutcliffe - so you reckon House Gang is one of the worst-acted, least funny comedies ever broadcast? Where have you been looking? I've seen many more terrible performances gracing our screens - all of them from able-bodied actors and writers.

Nobody out there is writing scripts that include disabled characters, nobody is casting disabled actors in sitcoms or soaps, or any other type of drama. The Aussies were determined enough to do it for themselves. I'm proud that Channel 4 gave its support to their determination and now I'm waiting for British writers to follow their lead.

ALISON WALSH

Disability Consultant

Channel 4

London SW

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