Based on recent costume design work by the researcher for the inclusive theatre company Midnight Feast, this research project explores the ways in which costume acts upon non-normative bodies and is acted upon by performers with a range of physical and mental disabilities. Disabled bodies appear on stage in association with a number of material and embodied visual tropes which influence how they are read by audiences. The performer’s association with prosthetic physical objects such as a wheelchair, walking or hearing aid are as present as the diverse physical, gestural or verbal signifiers that a disabled performer incorporates. Costume has the capacity to allow audiences to engage with disabled performers in a way that goes beyond familiar theatrical stereotypes such as Shakespeare’s Richard III and spectacles of difference, which foreground the performer’s disability rather than their performance.
Dr. Suzanne Osmond is an academic and practicing theatre professional who has been involved in diverse projects in theatre, live events and film as a costume supervisor and project manager. She is currently a Course Leader and Senior Lecturer at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney, Australia. She is also an Editor for the international peer reviewed journal Studies in Costume and Performance (Intellect). In 2017, she was Post Doctoral Research Fellow within the funded ‘Costume Methodologies’ research project at Aalto University, Finland.