Whitechapel performance night a sound success

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Charmaine Wombwell, AKA Scarlet Shambles, performing an extract from It used to be Me Pic: David Monteith-Hodge

Both deaf and hearing audience members enjoyed an evening of accessible short performances of all kinds last night (Tuesday 1) in Whitechapel.

The Accessible Scratch Night, hosted by London-based theatre company, The Deaf and Hearing Ensemble, featured a series of short and in-progress pieces by deaf and hearing acts from London and beyond.

Performers took to the stage in Bar Paragon, Genesis Cinema, to test new material and perform more established pieces, whilst showcasing the diverse range of styles of accessible theatre – using a mixture of British Sign Language (BSL), Spoken English, projection, movement, mime, music and more.

The level of inclusivity was impressive – not a word was spoken that wasn’t either projected or accompanied by a sign interpretation, and many of the performances were speech free, relying entirely on visuals. All stayed true to the ensemble’s mantra: “All that is heard is seen and all that is seen is heard.”

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Deaf and hearing applause for performers. Pic: David Monteith-Hodge

Eight different acts treated the audience to performances. Highlights included Rachael Merry’s touching exploration of dementia, Not Set in Custard, in which a lack of dialogue cleared the way for an appreciation of subtler details.

Gal Naor AKA The Progressive Wave’s piece, A Tribute To The Stars, featured three flamboyant sign and dance based interpretations of classic pop songs, drawing more than a few laughs when he emerged dressed as Amy Winehouse for his rendition of Love is a Losing Game.

Bea Webster explored the subject of lust in a sensual reworking of E E Cummings poem, I Like My Body When It Is With Your, which used spoken word, sign and body language, whilst Hermon Berhane and Sapphire Joy’s monologues brought issues of race to the fore.

Webster, 26, said: “I’ve been performing for 10 years and it’s my way of being able to express myself and my own creativity. I wanted to get lost in my own thoughts and have a platform to express myself.”

Webster, who is based in Glasgow, said she is kept busy with other events like this in Scotland, working with inclusive theatre company, Solar Bear.

The Deaf and Hearing Ensemble was formed in 2013. Consisting of “a group of D/deaf and hearing actors, directors, theatre makers, writers, artists, musicians, dancers and all round lovely people,” the company and its members have worked with other theatre companies from all over Britain, bringing accessible theatre to a wider audience. The phrase D/ deaf refers to those who are Deaf (sign language users) and deaf (who are hard of hearing but who have English as their first language and may lipread and/or use hearing aids).

Sapphire Joy (left) and Hermon Berhane (right) performing an extract from “Liberian Girl”. Pic: David Monteith-Hodge

Sapphire Joy (left) and Hermon Berhane (right) performing an extract from “Liberian Girl”. Pic: David Monteith-Hodge

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