Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Joshua Liburd: Animal

By | Published on Friday 14 April 2023

Coming up at Park Theatre this week is a run of Hope Mill Theatre’s ‘Animal’, written by Jon Bradfield from a story by both Jon and Josh Hepple. It’s about a young gay disabled man attempting to negotiate a romantic life while also relying on round the clock care. 

It’s an already acclaimed play, funny, but also dealing with important themes. To find out more about it, I spoke to cast member Joshua Liburd (pictured right, as Liam, with Christopher John-Slater, who plays David). 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the narrative of ‘Animal’? What story does the show tell?
JL: ‘Animal’ is about David, who is gay, disabled and horny. He can’t eat, drink or shower by himself – let alone the rest. Totally inexperienced, he embarks on a romantic odyssey, armed with a fierce brain and impressive nudes.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
JL: It explores sexual consent, impairments, being gay and disabled, body dysmorphia, shame, and the carer friend relationship. 

CM: Can you tell us about your role in the play and how you’ve approached it?
JL: My role is Liam, David’s love interest, and he struggles with a lot of things during the course of the play, especially internalised homophobia and body dysmorphia. I approached those themes specifically by doing research and reading a lot about how they affect people in the queer community.

CM: Why did you want to play this role?
JL: I felt it would be something very different to what I had done previously and therefore a nice challenge for me as an actor.

CM: Were you keen to explore these themes, this story? 
JL: Yes, I really was, a male and also a black male too. They are important and divisive themes that don’t get a lot of discussion. 

CM: Accessibility is paramount to this production, isn’t it? Can you tell us what measures are in place to welcome everyone?
JL: We have many measures in place to ensure that everyone is made to feel comfortable watching our play, be it a relaxed performance, an audio captioned performance, or a show that is lowly lit.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, now? Did you always want to be a performer? How did your career begin?
JL: I originally started acting in Luton, where I’m from. I have always had a passion for singing and acting, so I trained in London on the weekends, and there my passion was ignited even more. From there, I went to drama school to train professionally in musical theatre in London, at the Arts Educational Schools.

CM: What have been the highlights of your working life so far?
JL: Highlights for me are the amazing  places and people and stories I get to experience. I feel that I’ve grown so much through each piece I’ve acted in. It’s beautiful.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
JL: I aim to continue to be a part of work that challenges peoples perspectives and how people view the world or what they know of it. That’s the importance of theatre and art, to allow people to see a different way of being and existing that differs from their own.

‘Animal’ is on at the Park Theatre from 19 Apr-20 May, see the venue website here for details and to book tickets.  

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Photo: Piers Foley