Chris Grady, 10 January 2016

A rich discussion covering much ground attended by deaf artists, deaf access

organisations, BSL interpreters, and companies seeking an integrated

script/performance accessible to all audiences (deaf and hearing).

Present were: Paul Mooney, Claire Woolard, James Mavarney, Dawn & Sarah -

interpreters with their own voices too, Sarah-Louise Young, Uzma Kazi, Mary Jayne,

Rachael V, Dawn Baker, Callum Madge, Nazli Tabatabay - Khatambauhsh. I will email

you all, hoping I can read the writing.

Reason for the session - what's happening ?, what's needed ?, and connecting people

who are at the session and might follow.

Notes from the session:

*More signing actors would be great, allowing for more integration bilingually, and less

interpreter on a wooden box standing at side of stage in spotlit isolation

* Want companies to be doing integrated bilingual musicals, allowing for the poetry

that is possible in both languages.

* Remember that the deaf audience might not like the interpreter - and that may be a

reason they don't go see the show. Working with deaf mentors, and advisors who

really know their community can help a hearing theatre manager or director to engage

the right interpreter.

* Remember that loads of deaf actors want to be involved in the widest range of

theatre, and there is a very strong local community of actors - no need to ship them in

from London all the time.

* The only person, often, who has full-access is the interpreter - because they are truly

bilingual, and has the advantage of being prepared in both languages through

rehearsal and reading.

* Remember the interpreter is meant to take on the character, the feel, the voice, the

accent of the character on stage. This takes a lot of preparation. Involving them early

is a real advantage.

* In an ideal world bring the interpreter into the process at the very start, so they help

to shape the two languages as part of the rehearsal and development process.

* A signed performance is still seen as an add-on often (although getting better and

more integrated in certain productions). ACE and Creative Scotland welcome

invitations to fund a fuller bilingual approach.

* Need to reach out to the deaf community and really sell - and this is best done by

other members of that community.

* What about more involvement with the two languages at drama school and university

theatre training. Bristol and Reading used to be good examples of good connection,

but they are both gone now.

* Scottish Conservatoire has a deaf theatre skills course - there are probably more

shining examples, please add them to these notes.

* In opera and musicals there may be 3-4 or more vocal lines happening at the same

time. Often the interpreter has to make a choice of which to sign, because they can't

sign more than one person at a time. Ideally this is in conjunction with the director, so

the best emphasis and communication can happen for the audience.

Companies and projects which were mentioned include:

Zendah - Newcastle NPO

Pad Productions - Derby

Red Earth - Oliver Twist on the road at the moment

DE Drama - West Midlands

Deaf Explorer - supporting deaf practitioners WMidlands



Access Scottish Theatre Guide

Birds of Paradise with a show Wendy Hoose

James Varney's Macbrew with 1623 Theatre Co Derby

Personal Questions

?? Is it wrong to ask interpreters to audition, and have a cv with resume and

references - just as you would an actor. I might be employed to play Hamlet, but

no-one would want to watch me. Where is the Olivier or Maxine Peake or interpreters.

?? Which of the major funded theatre companies might be encouraged to develop a

richer seem of bilingual integrated theatremaking, to widen the audience for popular

theatre in BSL.

?? How about the UK equivalent of Deaf West - a commercial bilingual big scale

musical playing to the broadest West End audience including those who understand


My thanks to all involved in the discussion, and for the whirling fingers and hands of

Dawn and Sarah, who of course have to work twice as hard as the rest of us lot.




Theatre, bilingual, Access, access, bsl, BSL, signing, musicals, THEATRE, deaf,

interpreters, theatre