How easy is it for Hearing with little or none BSL training to incorporate some signs into their performance? What does it look and feel like?
The task for this exercise and re-visiting The Park scene was to choose a handful of simple and easy signs that the hearing actors could pick and and use in this scene that would help a deaf audience if we were to only stage the scene with one BSL performer playing either Clare or Emma and one Hearing/speaking performer playing Clare or Emma.
We knew that we were excited by this combination but were also aware that to do a whole production in this way and for certain scenes/sections of text that 'sign support' might be needed to ensure context, meaning and understanding is both possible for a deaf audience and in turn may also help in relation to the performance dynamics between a hearing and deaf performer only on stage. We already had discovered that the way in which hearing performers had adjusted slightly in relation to pace - slowing down, use of lip pattern and ways to get the attention of deaf performer on stage.
Watching this take place for the first time with Charlotte Arrowsmith (as BSL Clare) and Dorothy Duffy (as Hearing Emma) with Nadia Nadarajah (deaf performer) in audience that as an audience member she felt more engaged and excited than when it was just a performance without additional sign being used by a hearing performer.
Choosing signs carefully, ones that were perhaps more similar to gestures at this stage was useful.
Some conversation about 'home' signing and 'slang' signing that deaf families or pupils at a boarding school may use was brought up.
Previous questions about is the character of Clare / Emma deaf were brought up. This is a question for the future. What I decided for during this R & D phase was that if a deaf performer was playing Clare or Emma on stage then you had to treat the character as if they were deaf. It felt important in relation to playing the truth of the moment but is a question that needs to be addressed in relation to context of performing whole play and given that the character's were not written as to be deaf.