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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Bell tolls for 'hunchback' title
Charles Laughton
The book has inspired many movie versions
A British theatre company has renamed a stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in order to avoid offending anyone who suffers from the disability.

Derbyshire-based Oddsocks Production company has renamed their version of Victor Hugo's classic novel The Bellringer of Notre Dame.


We are not trying to soften it and sweeten it

Elli Mackenzie
The book is set in 15th Century Paris around the cathedral of Notre Dame, and tells the tragic story of a deformed bellringer Quasimodo and his love for a beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda.

Producer Elli Mackenzie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the company did not want to "reinforce any prejudice that might be there".

Translation

She said the production remain a "fair and reasonable" adaptation of the original novel, pointing out that Hugo's original title was Notre Dame de Paris.

Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton played Quasimodo in a classic film version
She said an English translation of the novel in 1833 added the word "hunchback" to the title.

A curvature of the spine, or scoliosis of the spine, is the condition often described as a hunchback.

Ms Mackenzie said Quasimodo's condition and the prejudice he faces because of it remained "central" to the production.

"We are not concealing it but we are not using the title that has been imposed on it 200 years.

'Offensive'

"We are not trying to soften it and sweeten it."

She said the theatre company had been told by a disability adviser that people with curvature of the spine might find the title insulting and offensive.

"We are a family organisation and our aim is to introduce the classics.

There are a lot of children in the audience and they would receive the message that it is okay to use that label.

But Dr Russell King, a lecturer on Victor Hugo at Nottingham University, said the decision "smacked of the most silly political correctness".

He told the Daily Mail newspaper: "Everybody in the world knows the work by the Hunchback name so why on earth change it?"

The Hugo novel has inspired at least five movie versions and a recent lavish musical, which retained the book's original title.

The production, the Bellringer of Notre Dame, is currently on a nationwide tour.

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Elli MacKenzie, Oddsocks Productions
"Some may find the title offensive and insulting"
See also:

26 Jan 00 | Entertainment
26 Feb 02 | Entertainment
22 Apr 01 | Entertainment
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