Birmingham’s drama group for deaf and hearing actors, Integreat, presented me with a very interesting notion with their performance of Mirror last year.
The production was unlike any other I’d seen, amateur or otherwise. The story, very cleverly written and performed, depicted a world where the norms had been reversed and its effects were mirrored.
In this life it was ‘normal’ to be deaf and anything other than this was disabled. The complete opposite of the world today!
Mirror followed the life of a couple who were expecting their second child. A ‘normal’ deaf family, they enjoyed a great social life, conversing with their community in British Sign Language and their eldest daughter received a great education in her first language, surrounded by friends.
Soon after the birth of their second daughter, a doctor approached the couple to inform them that something was ‘wrong’ with their baby girl. “She’s hearing,” he told them.
The parents were given very little information on the choices available to their daughter, fearing that she would never be able to fully access their ‘deaf world.’
They soon took their child home where they met with relatives and close friends. On receiving the news that she was different, they could only offer three words – “I’m so sorry.”
Mirror continued to depict the struggles this young girl faced. The language barriers when starting school, the bullying, the loneliness, the identity crisis. Everything that an awful lot of deaf children encounter when stepping into a hearing world.
And in Mirror we saw how the young hearing girl felt such a sense of relief when she met others like her. She was encouraged to join a ‘hearing club’ and she was able to celebrate her own verbal language, even though her family all communicated in a different way.
The beauty of Mirror was that it presented the trials that deaf people face in such a thoughtful, unique way that I couldn’t help but smile at how easy life would be for us if things were the other way round.
If only schools delivered all of their lessons in sign language. If only all the shop keepers and bus drivers and waitresses of the world could sign too. And if only we were seen as ‘normal.’
And with the majority of deaf children being born to hearing parents I can only hope that with plays like Mirror and more information on offer that deaf awareness is gradually increasing. Perhaps in this way it won’t be so daunting for new parents to discover their child has a hearing loss.
On a personal note I hope that diagnoses are no longer responded to with such sympathy, nor with those dreaded words of apology. Deafness may prevent us from being able to hear fully, but it does not prevent us from enjoying and living our life, provided we are given fair opportunities and equal access.
With thanks to Angie and the Integreat team for their insightful production. For more information on Integreat see www.integreattheatre.org.uk
Rebecca-Anne Withey is an actress, sign singer and tutor of performing arts. A black country girl at heart, she now resides in Derby where she works in both performance art and holistic therapies. She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.
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