Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Total Access – No Regrets

Many people say “you should live life with no regrets” and this phrase has had me pondering for some time. If we take the word regret to not be too strong a term I would say I have regrets for everything I do. Life is too short and I can never accomplish everything I want to. Some days I regret not becoming a chef or fighting to go to performing arts school and becoming a West End superstar. Some days I regret that I don’t have bright red hair but if I had bright red hair I’d regret not having a subtle hair colour. Basically, the way I am using the word regret is my wish for everything and everything now.

Me and my many lives....

Pondering a word and my feelings toward it would not be the same without the obligatory OED reference, so for your reading pleasure:

regret n. feeling of sorrow about a loss, or of annoyance or repentance.
The Oxford Popular English Dictionary & Thesaurus, Oxford University Press 1995

My latest regret is one I wish to share with you. I was involved in a wonderful project with some fantastic deaf, disabled and non-disabled school children. As part of an inclusive process, a piece of theatre was devised and I appeared on stage as part of the performance to sign what was being said and to give access to any BSL using audience members. The project was a joy to be involved with and the young people (from 6 different schools) gelled so well in a short space of time. There were two performances at the end of the process which went swimmingly and I even got to try my first snippet of live audio description. I absolutely loved working with directors who had little or no experience of using a performance signer, it was nice to hear their feedback of how they had been educated on the possibilities of integrating that particular form of access on stage.

However, there were children I did not meet who were involved in this vast project. They created the set and sound for the piece. To me the sound was a really important part of the performance as it was specially and lovingly created for this show. Because it was recorded sound, there wasn’t any visual access for deaf audience members the same way there is for live music and it became apparent that I needed to find a way to convey this visually through using signs. However, having had little experience of this and little time to listen to the music before the performance it was difficult to implement, especially when dialogue occurred over the top of music. I managed to sign the emotion, pitch and theme for some of the pieces but my regret is that I feel I did not do these young composers justice in making their work accessible to a deaf audience.

I recently read an interview in The Stage with Angie Newman who currently signs the music for Rambert Dance Company having taken over from Paul Whittaker. She originally trained as a musician and uses her in depth understanding of music and her skills as a SLI to sign music.

She states:

I don’t know of anyone other than Paul Whittaker and myself who do this.”*

Whilst I appreciate it takes a specialised skill set to master, I would love theatre folk, interpreters and myself to be more educated on the topic. If anyone has seen Angie or Paul perform please let me know your thoughts.

So that is my recent regret and I must emphasise that the way I have used ‘regret’ in this blog is in a positive light, to better myself and the work I do. Especially with regards to creating accessible theatre, I love the challenges and creative opportunities it presents. Maybe there’s a better word for it that I have not used… once again another regret.

*Berry, K. 2012. 60 Second CV. The Stage. February 2

Bravo 22 – Injured and Sick Service Personnel Perform

A collaborative project by Royal British Legion, Theatre Royal Haymarket, Masterclass Trust, Army Recovery Capability and Royal Navy Recovery Pathway have resulted in the formation of theatre company Bravo 22.

Bravo 22 is made up of injured and sick service personnel who have devised a new play The Two Worlds of Charlie F, based on their real life experiences. The aim of the project as anyone who has experienced the benefits of theatre whether it be with children, a minority or even majority group is to build confidence, self-awareness and introduce the members (of Bravo 22) to people in the theatre biz.

The Stage newspaper commented on the upcoming show where they interviewed The Two Worlds of Charlie F’s writer Owen Sheers who stated;

It has been incredible to see the change in them as individuals and as a company.”*

To me this comes across as a bit patronising and lacking context, I don’t believe this was the intention of Sheers but The Stage could have provided a more balanced story by also interviewing a member of Bravo 22. If an objective of the performance is to educate the audience on the experiences of these performers, surely we should be exposed to a quote or two from them.

When I first read of this project I thought it was an excellent idea. Many people with disabilities assert themselves as individuals within a community, aware of their rights and the need for a greater awareness regarding accessibility. A generalisation, but nevertheless this rings true for many friends and acquaintances with disabilities that I have encountered in person and through the wonders of social media. However, military men and women returning to the UK after an injury seem to come under a different branch of disability that can be forgotten about. How fantastic to use a powerful medium such as theatre to educate the public on the experiences of serving and how life can be dramatically different upon return.

But is this the case?…

The Stage do not offer any contribution from the members of Bravo 22. In addition, I find it interesting that the word disability is not used anywhere on the web to describe members of the company. One can speculate why, “disability” in our current world can be associated with terms such as pity, scroungers and incapable; is there fear of degrading our soldiers by the association of this word?

Whilst the proceeds from standard and gala tickets of these performances is a great way to raise money for the Masterclass trust and The Royal British Legion there are some issues with using the Theatre Royal Haymarket as a location. I would hope this performance attracts a wide audience including patrons with disabilities whether service personnel or not. However, access in and around the building especially for wheelchair users looks to be a bit of a nightmare, but not to worry, unless you want to/are able to transfer to an aisle seat, there is only one wheelchair place available at the back of the auditorium! I do understand that listed buildings such as theatres have a big and expensive job to make their venues wheelchair accessible but surely for this specific performance they could take out a row of seating at the front of the stalls to make their auditorium a bit friendlier.

Anyway, as usual, what intended to be an informative blog resulted in a rant. I wish Bravo 22 all the best for Sunday and hope to see more from them in the future.

Performances will be at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, this Sunday (22nd Jan 2012, it is 2012, please ignore the typo here) at 2:30pm and 6:30 pm.

Check out Bravo 22’s website here where you can book tickets, donate and find out more about the cast of The Two Worlds of Charlie F. You can also book through the Theatre Royal Haymarket website.

* Woolman, N. 2012. Wounded servicemen to tell their stories on stage. The Stage, January 12 2012, pg.3.