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Arthur Hughes Becomes the First Disabled Actor to Play Richard III for Royal Shakespeare Company

By: Andrew Zheng

Richard III has long been a figure of fascination, inspiring many plays that remain one of William Shakespeare's most popular worldwide, and many famous actors have tackled the role of Richard, from Lawrence Oliver to Denzel Washington. The Black Panther star Danai Gurira is the latest high-profile figure to take the New York stage.

In the UK, where production is currently running, it is considered a landmark in the history of the role due to it being the first time that the 61-year-old Royal Shakespeare Company has cast a disabled actor to play the lead of the production Richard III, whose disability is not specified but is described as having a withered arm, having a limp, and being "hunchbacked. "

Arthur Hughes, who plays Richard, is best known for his roles in British radio soap "Archers" and the Netflix series "The Innocents." He was born with radial dysplasia, which affected his right arm. "Richard is one of the most famous disabled characters in the English-speaking world," he tells BBC Culture. "To be playing him on one of the largest Shakespeare stages in the world and to be a disabled man doing it – it's an honor. It's also a good sign of where we're moving towards."

Hughes is not the first disabled actor to play Richard; others include Matt Fraser from the Northern Broadsides theater company in 2017 and Daniel Monks in the 2019 Donmar Warehouse, which Transposes Richard III's plot to a high school in America. Spiller, whose theater company focuses on disabled artists, hopes this is a sign of a change: "It's a part that non-disabled artists have played for far too long. It's thrilling that Arthur will continue what I hope will be a continuous line of disabled actors playing Richard."

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