Brand new play ANIMAL explores how disability, sexuality and lust co-exist for people who require round the clock assistance

Needs must. Needs lust.

Winner of the inaugural Through the Mill Prize and shortlisted for the Papatango Prize, Park Theatre and Hope Mill Theatre present brand-new play ANIMAL, exploring how disability, sexuality and lust co-exist for people who require round the clock assistance. Written by Jon Bradfield (Queers, BBC4; the Above The Stag Theatre adult pantomimes) and developed by disability activist and equality trainer Josh Hepple, ANIMAL is an authentic, hilarious, and heart- breaking look at hook-up culture, navigating relationships and how they intersect with practical needs and social barriers for disabled people.

Christopher John-Slater (All of Us, National Theatre; The Dumping Ground, CBBC) plays David – gay, disabled and profoundly horny. David can’t eat, drink or shower by himself without an assistant, let alone the rest… Totally inexperienced and refusing to let his impairment stop him, David embarks on a sexual and romantic odyssey, armed with wit, charm and impressive nudes – although somebody else had to take them. ANIMAL looks at how one man tries to keep it casual whilst relying on completely non-casual care. Can David juggle the uncertainty of romance, the crudeness of sexting and navigating Grindr, all whilst relying on assistance? Or in the end, maybe prejudice is the biggest disability of all?

Writer Jon Bradfield comments, It’s a dream for a writer to have someone bring them such an affecting, provocative and indeed fun subject, and an honour that Josh thought I had the voice to tell such a story as ANIMAL. Sex, sexual currency, affection, and the way we navigate all kinds of relationships are matters that affect us all and exploring how they intersect with the practical needs and social barrier encountered by someone who has severe impairments has been eye-opening and world-expanding. I wouldn’t be the right person to attempt an issue play “about disability”, but with Josh as my guide and collaborator I’ve loved crafting this distinctive story and creating a central character I hope will prove memorable, complex, funny and empathetic.

Accessibility is at the heart of ANIMAL – everyone is welcome at any performance. The performance will be an environment where people can freely express themselves and experience the show according to their needs. Additional wheelchair spaces will be available at each performance and specific relaxed or semi-relaxed performances will be available at all venues along with advance notice of any sensory triggers. There will also be audio-described, captioned and touch tour performances.

Daniel Cooper, producer for Park Theatre, comments, In addition to the extraordinarily talented cast and creative team assembled on this unique project, Park Theatre is also thrilled to be working with movement director and access consultant Cathy Waller, intimacy director Robbie Taylor-Hunt and the mental health and counselling consortium Wellbeing in the Arts in order to tell this story as sensitively and authentically as possible. The performances in May at Park Theatre will fall over the theatre’s 10th anniversary – and what better way to mark that milestone than with a bold, surprising, and joyous play and to be collaborating regionally with our co-producer at Hope Mill in Manchester as well as with the Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol, two similarly dynamic and daring fringe venues. We’d like to thank Arts Council England for their generous support on this collaboration.

The talented cast are completed by Joshua Liburd (Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre; The Scottsboro Boys, Young Vic), Amy Loughton (Romeo & Juliet, Southwark Playhouse; A View from the Bridge, Theatre by the Lake), Matt Ayleigh (The Importance of Being Earnest, Theatre Clwyd; Love for Love, Bristol Old Vic), Harry Singh (But I’m a Cheerleader!, Turbine Theatre) and William Oxborrow (Saving Jason, Park Theatre; Guys & Dolls, Savoy Theatre).

Performance Dates
9th March – 2nd April 2023 Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
12th April – 15th April 2023 Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol
19th April – 20th May 2023 Park Theatre, London