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Theatre for Deaf and hearing audiences

22 Jan 2016

This content is tagged as Theatre .

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Bilingual theatre for Deaf and hearing audiences, At The End Of My Hands, will open at BATS Theatre in Wellington on 28 January for three nights before touring to Auckland and Hamilton for returns seasons later in February.

Presented by Equal Voices Arts, At The End Of My Hands explores stories about Deaf culture, communication and the history of Sign Language in New Zealand.

Deaf performers Kylie Willis, Shaun Fahey, Kelly Quirke and Joanne Klaver share the stage with Mihailo Ladjevac and Alex Lodge, who speak, in English.

Described as a “beautifully staged and heartfelt” piece in a review of the Hamilton premiere in 2015,  At The End Of My Hands places both English and New Zealand Sign Language on stage with equal priority, and is accessible to both Deaf and hearing audiences.

The review says: “The production opens with a prologue of bodies and hands reaching up in silhouette, back lit behind the drops. Spoken words explicate the theme of the evening: “We have stories to tell at the end of our hands.” The stories erupt, flowing upwards from the whole of the bodies we are watching. Even the extremes of the fingertips express energy and power.

At The End Of My Hands is directed by Dr Laura Haughey, a British practitioner who relocated to New Zealand to teach theatre studies at the University of Waikato.

Laura has a background in inclusive theatre and has worked for many years in Deaf-led professional theatre in the UK and Europe.

She says of the process: “We started by telling stories about communication, culture, making friends, Deaf culture, the oppression of sign languages, initially without words and signs – just using our bodies. Signs and words followed, as did visual vernacular and universal modes of expression.”

At The End Of My Hands has had short seasons in Hamilton and Auckland, and thanks to support from the New Zealand Sigh Language Fund, the production will return to both cities.

Each performance will be accompanied by a formally NZSL interpreted Q&A forum between the creators of the piece and the audience.

Performer Alex Lodge says the Q&A forum is her favourite part of every performance. “It allows the audience to become part of the performed conversation between two cultures in a supportive setting. The marginalisation of Deaf people and their language is a serious issue but we get to show how playful the space between languages can be, so it’s not a serious or scary way of talking about it.”

The stories range from comical failed seductions to sobering classroom oppression.

“The Deaf audience gets a slightly different narrative to the hearing audience, and this is deliberate,” Laura says. “Most of the Deaf audience know these stories. They know what that oppression has done to the development of the languages and cultures in Deaf communities worldwide.

“But for most of our hearing audience, these stories are new and shocking. Watching alongside a Deaf audience changes their perceptions hugely.”

Wellington workshops

In addition to the performances, the company is offering free Working Through the Body workshops at BATS Theatre at 1pm to 2.30pm and 6.30pm to 8pm on 27 January, accessible to Deaf and hearing performers, and anyone interested in performance. The workshops will be led by both Deaf and hearing company members.

Limited places available. Please contact alex@equalvoices.co.uk for more information and to reserve a space in the workshop.

Performance booking details for Wellington, Auckland and Hamilton

BATS Theatre, Wellington: 7pm 28–30 January, followed by an interpreted Q&A after the show at 8pm. For tickets, book online.
TAPAC, Auckland: 7.30pm 5–6 February, followed by an interpreted Q&A after the show at 8.30pm. For tickets, book online.
Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton: 7.30pm 12–13 February, followed by an interpreted Q&A after the show at 8.30pm. For tickets, book online.