Pioneering disabled actor says he wanted Richard III role since his first Shakespeare encounter

Entertainment Reporter Rishi Davda heard from Arthur Hughes about making history

Arthur Hughes has become the first disabled actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company to play Richard III.

The 30-year-old was born with radial dysplasia, meaning he has a shorter right arm.

Despite King Richard being one of english literature’s most well known disabled characters, Arthur’s casting has made history.

Speaking to ITV News about taking on the role, Arthur said: "Richard is a character I’ve always wanted play, ever since I knew who William Shakespeare was. A voice in me has told me that one day you’ll play him."

A whole host of theatre titans have played Richard in the past, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Alec Guinness and Hollywood actor Al Pacino.

Richard III had scoliosis and Shakespeare used his condition, and built upon it, as a literary technique to portray Richard’s unpleasant character.

Al Pacino plays Richard III

Despite his disability, Richard has often been portrayed by able-bodied actors.

Speaking about casting Arthur in the role of Richard, director Gregory Doran remarked: "Richard III is famously described as a ‘pois’nous bunch-back’d toad', these sorts of insults are being hurled at someone with a lived experience of that prejudice.

"I didn’t cast Arthur because he’s a disabled actor, I cast him because he’s a terrific actor."

For interviews with some of showbiz's most exciting names, listen to the ITV News Unscripted podcast

Arthur elaborated on those lived experiences, saying that they are "built into you". He reflected that "my body is shaped the way it is and when you put it on a stage, that says something.

"I’ve experienced being overlooked, underestimated and felt like I’m not part of something. I don’t have to manufacture it."

Although representation of disabled characters on stage and on screen has improved in recent years, the actor believes there is still some way to go.

"I don’t think we are where we need to be where it comes to disability and inclusion. I’m proud to be the first disabled Richard at the Royal Shakespeare Company," he said.

"My disability is the thing that I’m proud of and that pushes me forward rather than holds me back."