My thoughts on Redefining Juliet

Published Date
Vicki Dennis

Vicki Dennis reviews the documentary Redefining Juliet, which casts disabled and physically different actresses in the iconic role of Juliet, as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare season.

Being a young women living with congenital muscular dystrophy, I, like most women, have insecurities. I don’t like my shape and I really dislike my feet. But does that define me as a person?

The world today is far too body conscious. With a world filled with celebrities such as the Kardashians, models who are so skinny and beautiful, when I look at them I always think maybe I’d like to look like them, and if I had then I could have been a TV presenter.

On Sunday I watched a fantastic documentary on BBC 4 called Redefining Juliet.

The documentary sees Shakespeare’s heroine played by six actresses who are different from the conventional interpretation of Juliets: tall, deaf, wheelchair-user, small, large, and living with alopecia, they all take a turn in the role.

Creative Director Storme Toolis is a wheelchair user and has cerebral palsy. Like the other women, she always wanted to play Juliet. So together they put a unique retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

All six of these talented ladies showed their version of the story and it was totally breath taking.

I found the programme very uplifting because it’s so refreshing to see such different Juliet’s in the role, and gives hope that maybe one day disabled actors will be in mainstream castings, as we rightly should be. It made me feel good about myself and that maybe I could become a TV presenter.

I thought each and every one of the actresses played Juliet amazingly. In particular, the deaf actress telling us the story in sign language was just breathtaking.  But it  also disappointed me. This world needs to change – what we see in the media is completely different to what goes on in the real world. Whether you are a wheelchair user, fat, thin, black, white, deaf or blind, if you have the talent to do the job, then why shouldn’t people go for it. People’s looks do not define who they are. 

I really hope the programme does encourage casting directors to give everyone a chance.

Redefining Juliet is available to watch on IPlayer until June 2016.

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