Nabil Shaban

United Kingdom

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Nabil Shaban was born in 1953 in Amman, Jordan and arrived in England when he was three for treatment for his osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle-bone disease). In 1980, he and Richard Tomlinson founded Graeae (pronounced Grey Eye), a professional theatre company of disabled performers. A writer and performer with many film and television credits, he is probably best known to television viewers for his role as ruthless intergalactic businessman Sil in the Doctor Who stories 'Vengeance on Varos' and 'Trial of a Timelord' (BBC, 1985 + 1986).

On stage he has played Volpone, Hamlet, and Jesus in Godspell, Haille Sellassie in 'The Emperor and Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian Nights, Mack the Knife in Theatre Workshop's production of Brecht's "Threepenny Opera",
…..for which he was nominated Critics' Best Actor in Scottish Theatre (2004-2005).
He played Hamm in Becket’s “Endgame” (2007/8) and Marquis de Sade in Peter Weiss “Marat/ Sade”.
He played Siegfried in his own play, “The First To Go”, about disabled people in Nazi Germany, which toured Scotland in 2008.

He also played the storyteller Rashid in the Royal National Theatre's production of Salman Rushdie’s “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”.

He has performed in such movies as City of Joy (d. Roland Joffe, 1991), Wittgenstein (d. Derek Jarman, 1992) and Born of Fire (d. Jamil Dehlavi, 1988), and on television in Walter (d. Stephen Frears 1982) )and Deptford Graffiti (d. Phil Davis 1991). More recently, he appeared in “Children of Men” (2006), and “Trouble Sleeping” (2007).

Nabil Shaban is a political actor and has worked in plays about Palestine (The Little Lamp, 1999 and Jasmine Road, 2003), about the State murder of Northern Ireland lawyer, Rosemary Nelson (Portadown Blues, 2000). Also "D.A.R.E." (disabled terrorists opposed to genetic cleansing of disabled people) (1997-2004).

Shaban has written and presented several documentaries on themes of disability, including the Emmy award winning Skin Horse (Channel 4, 1983), about disability and sexuality, the Fifth Gospel (BBC, 1990), exploring the relationship between the Christian gospels and disability. He also instigated and presented the Without Walls: 'Supercrips and Rejects' (Channel 4, 1996), about Hollywood's representation of disabled people. Also in a Secret History documentary “The Strangest Viking” (Channel 4, 2003), he argued the case that Ivarr the Boneless was a disabled viking leader.

Shaban's radio work includes writing and presenting a six part series on the life of Gandhi (BBC World Service 1984). Playing Benn Gunn in BBC Radio 4 "Treasure Island" (1994) and Jaturi the vulture in BBC Radio 2 "The Ramayan" (1994).

Shaban's voice was used in English version of Werner Herzog's movie "Cobra Verde"

In 1995, he founded Sirius Pictures to make video arts documentary Another World. This was followed in 1997 by the award-winning 'The Alien Who Lived in Sheds' (BBC, 1997) which he wrote, directed and starred in. He produced, wrote and directed a music film, “Crip Triptych” (2006). He also produced, wrote and directed a short drama film, “Morticia” (2009), about a little girl who wants to be a vampire.

Shaban's written plays include “The First To Go” (about disabled people in Germany’s Third Reich) and "I am the Walrus" (about a schizophrenic who believes he made Mark Chapman assassinate John Lennon)

Shaban has worked as dramaturg for Theatre Workshop's commission of Ghazi Hussein's play "One Hour to Sun Rise" (2005), as well as contracted as Assistant Director for the rehearsed reading and Theatre Workshop's production of Robert Rae's 2005 Christmas Show "A Christmas Tale of Hans Christian Andersen".

Nabil Shaban, who has a degree in Psychology and Philosophy, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Surrey for the achievements of his career and his work to change public perceptions of disabled people.

In 2005 Nabil Shaban published his first book, "Dreams My Father Sold Me", an anthology of thirty years of his artwork and poetry, with a foreword by Lord Richard Attenborough. He now has two other books published – “The First To Go” (2007), and a crime novel, “The Ripper Code” (2008).


  1. S. LaRue