Judith Johnson

University of Essex

Project title: New Landscapes, New Eyes: A playwright’s journey into learning-disability theatre

I aim to research the following questions: 
‘What are the problems inherent in a non-learning-disabled playwright writing ‘for’ and ‘with’ and aiming to ‘represent’ a group of  participants with learning-disabilities? How might these problems be addressed or explored?’ 
This will be researched in the broad context of my own practice as a playwright with over twenty five years’ experience in applied/community theatre and set against the background of a burgeoning scene of learning-disability theatre which grew out of disability theatre and has developed over the last twenty-thirty years.  These questions will be examined via the writing of a new script for Razed Roof, an inclusive performing arts group for people with learning difficulties and disabilities, working alongside ‘mainstream’ sixth form students. The play, 'Trisomy 21', will explore the history of and issues relating to Down’s Syndrome.  

Supervised by Dr Liz Kuti

About me

I have been writing for the stage, radio and screen and teaching/lecturing Creative Writing and Writing for Drama for nearly 30 years. I have  taught and been produced in diverse venues, from the Royal National Theatre to young offender’s institutes. I am a playwright and writing advisor for Theatre of Debate, which produces plays and educational programmes exploring issues of health and science. I am also patron and playwright for Razed Roof Inclusive Theatre Company, which works with people with learning disabilities alongside ‘mainstream’ teenagers. I have written two musicals with composer Karl Lewkowicz, including Goodbye Barcelona, winner of two Spanish Theatre Awards. I was a Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Writing Fellow for the University of Greenwich and University of East London and am now an RLF Reading Round Lector in  Tower Hamlets.

Research interests

Applied theatre, theatres of learning-disability, educational theatre, creative writing.


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