AT THE END OF MY HANDS
Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton
01/05/2015 - 02/05/2015
BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
28/01/2016 - 30/01/2016
TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland
30/05/2015 - 30/05/2015
Stories for Deaf and Hearing Audiences
The piece will be an original performance, created in both New Zealand Sign Language and spoken English and has an integrated company of both Deaf and hearing actors.
The piece is being developed to be accessible for both Deaf and hearing audiences and will not involve formal interpretation. Instead, both NZSL and English will be given the same priority, and explored on an equal although not identical basis.
Playhouse Theatre, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Knighton Road, Hamilton
1st and 2nd May 2015
Entry by Donation
At the End of My Hands, which was delivered to sell-out audiences across two nights in Hamilton recently, featured Deaf and hearing actors using both New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and spoken English.
Directed by University of Waikato’s Dr. Laura Haughey, in collaboration with the Equal Voices Arts Company, this unique bilingual performance told the history of NZSL, alongside experiences and stories from the Deaf actors about Deaf culture here in New Zealand.
Laura said after the shows: ‘We were so pleased with the response from the audiences. The feedback from the sell out Hamilton shows was hugely supportive, warm and affirmative of the stories shared. For some of our hearing audiences, the stories about the oppression of sign languages were new and shocking. And watching alongside a Deaf audience changes their perceptions hugely.’
The company is looking forward to taking the show to Auckland next, where it will be performed
at TAPAC (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre)
on the 30th May 2015
For tickets, please go to www.tapac.org.nz
“Beautifully staged and heartfelt … A considered, well-structured, outstandingly performed piece.” – Theatreview.
Award-winning international company Equal Voices presents a collection of stories for Deaf and hearing audiences. The first of its kind in New Zealand, At the End of My Hands is performed in English and New Zealand Sign Language with no formal interpretation required.
BATS Theatre – Propeller Stage
Thursday 28 – Saturday 30 Jan, 7.00pm
Director: Laura Haughey
Dramaturg: Bill Hopkinson / Alex Lodge
Composer & Musical Direction: Andy Duggan
Lighting: Alec Forbes
Graphic Design: Andy Duggan
Production Managers: Kate Booker & Holly McLeod
Rehearsal Interpreters: Kelly Hodgins supported by Nicola Clements and Kimai Ross
Q&A Interpreter: Kelly Hodgins (Hamilton & Auckland); Saran Goldie-Anderson (Wellington)
Treat yourself to insightful entertainment
Review by John Smythe 29th Jan 2016
A treat is in store at BATS if you’re quick: its 3-night Wellington season continues tonight and tomorrow. If you are a hearing person you will delight in the ready access At the End of My Hands offers to the Deaf* experience. If you are Deaf, this is a rare opportunity to see your community personified and celebrated in live theatre.
Six performers – four Deaf: Kylie Berry, Shaun Fahey, Kelly Quirke, Joanne Klaver; two hearing : Alex Lodge, Mihailo Ladjevac – and a live musician, Andy Duggan (hearing) on keys, guitar and dulcimer, play out a series of devised scenarios, directed by Laura Haughey (bi-lingual).
Beyond three translucent vertical panels people on cellphones rush about their daily business. Hands stroke and paw at the drapes, separated from us and wanting connection. With a lively and often witty physicality the sextet tell us they have stories to tell. They create abstract shapes in space and pass them to each other, establishing the largely visual nature of the show.
The languages used in the sketches that follow are New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), English, Serbian, Mime and Visual Vernacular for scene-setting and witty ‘asides’. Deaf actors play hearing/speaking roles by employing mime conventions and hearing actors prove fluent in Sign.
I am not alone in finding myself able to comprehend almost all if it – and hey, it’s an everyday experience to not pick up on everything that happens or is said in a social situation.
Three women with babies – two Deaf; one hearing – are visited by a doctor who tests their babes hearing, or lack of it. As we study the women to read their responses we realise sadness or happiness at the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.
When Deaf children visit Grandma for fresh-baked muffins, smell and taste are to the fore. A chatty man and Deaf woman take their dogs to the park but despite having love of their dogs in common, ‘language difficulties’ stymie a potential relationship.
A Context note in the programme tells us how, at an International Congress of Educators of the Deaf in 1880, in a vote from which the Deaf were excluded, the philosophy of Oralism won the day and the use of Sign Languages in schools was officially prohibited.
The results play out in a 1965 classroom scene where the teacher demands “No hands!” but talks to the blackboard as he writes on it. No wonder Signing is rife behind him! It’s a scenario that recalls the dark days when Māori was also banned in schools. While New Zealand recognised Māori as an official language in 1987, NZSL didn’t achieve that status until 2006 and, as the programme notes, “education still suffers from the 100 years of neglect and oppression” – not least because it takes time to rebuild the numbers of teachers of the Deaf.
Oralism also penetrates homes in a scene where a father insists his Deaf daughter must learn to lip-read and talk in order to survive. But two girls in detention, one Deaf, one hearing, happily find ways to communicate, even if they are still prone to adolescent immaturity. Flawed personalities are a strong point in a dramaturgy that ensures there is no idealising of Deaf culture.
A Deaf husband leaves home and drives to work only to be pulled over for speeding – by a cop who knows how to sign! Equality in communication at last! But does this put him above the law?
Blokes go clubbing, a Deaf woman goes diving, another Deaf woman tries to play a guitar but her dog is not impressed … It becomes apparent that Deaf humour is its own thing and it is a bonus to experience it in a show like this.
The ‘life is a rollercoaster’ metaphor is dynamically employed to end the show with each actor breaking out to share one more everyday experience.
This 80-minute show – followed by an NZSL-signed Q&A session for those who wish to stay – is insightfully entertaining for all. If you welcome diversity within your world, this will enrich it. If you fear diversity, At the End of My Hands will move you on to a happier place.
The value the participants have clearly gained from working together radiates to their audience. Treat yourself.
*Deaf is capitalised because it denotes a culture and linguistic group, rather than an impairment.
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An extended hand of sharing and understanding
Review by Chloe Klein 05th Jun 2015
Last Saturday the TAPAC stage was preset with three backlit strips of white fabric draped from ceiling to floor and, to the side, a collection of instruments waiting to perform. What proceeded was an hour of genuinely performed theatre: part physical, part improv, part dance, with both Deaf and hearing actors sharing personal stories, covering mothers and infants’ hearing tests, strained family Deaf/hearing relationships, tales of Oralism, and being pulled over by the cops.
The stories are communicated at different points by both spoken language, and NZ Sign Language; a decision made to emphasise the equality of both languages. Experiencing the show as a hearing or Deaf audience member would provide two different performative experiences, neither more preferable, but offering different perspective and insights.
Sitting next to me was a translator who summarised long sections of sign for me, a service she didn’t often have to offer as the signing was accompanied by a heavy reliance on mime to communicate to hearing audience. During the performance I was pleased to understand the key concepts, emotions and plots before me, though upon reflection I can’t help but wonder if the interchange between mime and sign cheapened the value of signed communication.
This aside, the stories brought to life in front us were all lived experiences of the Deaf and hearing actors on stage. Difficult stories surrounding marginalisation, presented without blame throwing, were made accessible to all.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen theatre so personally and earnestly performed by a cast. The knowledge of their ownership gave their content emotional weight, and their personal connection to these voices screamed in evidence through their articulation of performance. This weight was amplified throughout the audience, comprised largely of the Deaf community. They had relationships with the performers that went beyond theatre, and their stories hold relevance of the first degree to their lives.
This was the sense I was left with in my seat as I watched not only performance on stage, but the giving and receiving of understanding from the stands. Also worthy of note was the skilful musician providing musical dialogue with each story over a range of instruments.
For one evening I entered a clearly close-knit and supportive community, and was able to enjoy a considered, well structured, outstandingly performed piece that covered humour, disconnectedness, overcoming, sorrow and excitement all in one ride. As someone with little contact with the Deaf community, I was humbled to be brought into an experience so intimate and personal. If the performance was an extended hand of sharing and understanding, it succeeded. It’s a shame At The End Of My Hands was performed only once in Auckland; it’s a theatre piece one can only gain from being a part of.
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Short, cutting scenes beautifully staged
Review by Mark Houlahan 04th May 2015
This is the first public showing of work by Equal Voices; a series of beautifully staged and heartfelt vignettes, mostly focusing on the intersections between hearing and Deaf cultures. Deafness in the theatre is mostly used as a trope in stories that assume actors and audiences with conventional skill sets and understandings. Mostly those roles will then be taken by actors who ‘act’ Deaf. But there are other stories to tell, and other performers who ought to tell them.
“Wanted, four Deaf actors, skilful on stage and emotionally adept”: that would be a challenging casting notice to post. To find the right performers and genuine stories, Laura Haughey ran workshops with members of the Deaf community. She found actors with untapped potential as performers and she found, I am sure, many more stories of the Deaf than can be shared with us over the course of this enthralling hour.
These four – Kylie Berry, Shaun Fahey, Kelly Quirke and Joanne Klaver – share the stage with two other actors, Mihailo Ladjevac and Alex Lodge, who speak, in English and, in Ladjevac’s case, his mother tongue, Serbian. So we hear two languages, and see NZ sign language as well as mime and other fully embodied means of expression.
The stories told are short and cutting. Three mothers with three young babies are told their baby is Deaf. Is that a tragedy or a triumph? If you could hear, how would you cope? If you were Deaf, you might rejoice in welcoming another into the family of the Deaf.
In another sequence a teacher is trying to put maths equations on the board. The three children are Deaf. If they spoke they would be making a din. Instead their bodies and hands are alive as they tell each other stories, wriggle and poke each other. The teacher forbids their signing to each other and makes them, eventually, sit on their hands, so as to stop their “jibber jabber”. He might just as well have cut out their tongues. The resonance with the suppression of te reo for so many years in our classrooms is impossible to miss.
The production is beautifully staged. Laura Haughey is the director and instigator of this project, but clearly draws on a very committed ensemble of performers and technical crew. She has a terrific feel for how the poetic wooden space of the playhouse needs to be used. The space is divided centre stage by three drops of white cloth, often lit with bold colours. There is no other set. From here the performers appear swiftly, forming new combinations to tell each successive story. To the left of the performers Andy Duggan provides empathetic music from piano, drums, guitar.
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.
The Deaf do not clap, we learn (for they could not hear the applause). Rather they raise their hands high and shake them so the fingers shiver. It’s like the audience is doing silent ragtime. By the end of the signed Q & A, even body-clumsy speakers like myself know what to do. There is a showing at TAPAC in Auckland at the end of the month and, very likely, many more to follow.
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