Deaf and disabled actors performing at London Southbank
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2012
by Louis Adamou
As part of the Unlimited Commissions at London Southbank, a cast of deaf and disabled actors, directed by National Theatre Wales will carry out a performance of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ on 31 August.
Find out why Kaite's trying to put deaf and disabled actors in the national spotlight….
I’m a hearing playwright, dramaturg, and theatre maker who works both in the so-called ‘mainstream’ culture as well as deaf and disability arts and culture.
Early involvement with Graeae Theatre Company
I started working within disability arts and culture in 1987, as an actor with Graeae Theatre company(opens in new window), acting opposite Jenny Sealey, now the artistic director of the company. Jenny is deaf and it was through her I began to learn about sign language.
As a writer and director I’ve been immensely fortunate to work with some incredible deaf and disabled performers. From 1992 I worked for years with Common Ground Sign Dance Theatre, a performance company which mixed sign performance, choreography, spoken/sung English and BSL. I made several shows with deaf performers David Bower and Denise Armstrong, and collaborated further with Denise when she became artistic director and choreographer for the company.
Collaboration with deaf performers
In 2006 I co-founded The Fingersmiths Ltd(opens in new window), a company focusing on bilingual performance (theatrical BSL, spoken and projected English) with Jean St. Clair and Jeni Draper. We were interested in exploring cultural and linguistic equality on stage when working across the two languages. Jean is a phenomenal deaf actor and expert in sign performance and BSL. She has been advisor on three productions of my plays - ‘Peeling’ which was first produced by Graeae Theatre in 2002, and most recently on ‘In Water I’m Weightless’.(opens in new window)
In Water I’m Weightless brings together some of my long-term collaborators and old comrades, including Sophie Stone and sign interpreter/performer Jo Ross. It is inspired by the lives, experiences, imagination and humour of deaf and disabled people.
It is an Unlimited Commission(opens in new window), inspired by my ambition to put deaf and disabled experience, centre-stage on a national platform, performed by some of the best deaf and disabled performers in the UK. I’m immensely fortunate that long-term collaborator John McGrath, the artistic director of National Theatre Wales, understood what I sought to achieve with this project, and was excited and committed to bringing it to fruition.
‘A fusion of text, dance, movement, sign performance’
In Water I’m Weightless is an ensemble piece - a montage of fictional stories in signed and spoken languages, a fusion of text, dance, movement, sign performance, video and media projections.
‘I hope the work will challenge and subvert stereotypes’
I hope the work will challenge and subvert stereotypes and misinformed preconceptions – we’re not tragic but brave – we’re not ‘inspirational’ individuals to be patronised and put on pedestals – we’re talented, sexy, witty, ordinary individuals just like everyone else. I hope the work will challenge superficial notions of normalcy and limited definitions of what it is to be human. But that’s my personal perspective. The work is not a political manifesto – it would be disrespectful to the actors to lump them under one political banner – it is about diversity and difference.
Accessible performance and further information
The performance will be accessible to deaf audiences through a mixture of BSL sign interpretation, sign performance by actors, projected English and video.
For further information, or to book a ticket, please visit the Southbank Centre website(opens in new window). This information is also available in BSL(opens in new window).
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