Bell tolls for 'Hunchback'
LONDON, England -- A British theatre company has dropped references to "hunchback" in its adaptation of the famous Victor Hugo novel for fear of upsetting those who suffer from the disability.
Instead, the Oddsocks Productions travelling troupe will call their version of the play based on the character Quasimodo "The Bell Ringer of Notre Dame." The 1831 French novel was titled "Notre Dame de Paris."
Ellie Mackenzie, producer for the Derbyshire company, said the decision was made after taking advice on people's sensitivities about the matter.
"We didn't want to reinforce any stereotypes about Quasimodo's disability," she said.
Disability charities have given mixed responses to the move.
The London Scoliosis Association, which represents those who suffer from the debilitating condition that causes a curve in the spine, welcomed the switch.
Libby Biberian, spokeswoman for the charity, said the word "hunchback" has "caused some problems" with members.
"People use it as a derogatory term -- throwing names and making comments at the possible similarities," Biberian told The Associated Press.
"It's a very delicate thing. People have been rude and hurtful."
But a spokesman for the disability charity Leonard Cheshire told the UK Press Association: "We would much rather efforts were made to ensure disabled people have full access to all theatres than to see the names of productions being changed."
Mackenzie said the "hunchback" tag only became notable after films using the title "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" were made in the 1920s and '30s starring Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton as Quasimodo.
"This is still very much a play about what is beautiful on the outside, and the characters are still not terribly nice to the Quasimodo character -- who is played by an able-bodied actor," Mackenzie said.
Hugo's book has since been published under the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" title, and Walt Disney made an animated feature film by the same title in 1996.
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