“I make what I do accessible to everyone, regardless of language.” Meet: Ramesh Meyyappan, Deaf visual theatre creator

Posted on January 13, 2015

Could you tell me about your background? Where do you come from?

I was born in a small rural village in South India. Later at a very young age my family moved to Singapore.

Their decision was made in an attempt to ensure both my sister and myself got access to education that would cater for us both being deaf.

I do have family still in India – my brother and his sons are there and I have cousins there.

I moved to Liverpool for three years BA degree (Theatre & Performance) before ended up living with my Scottish wife in Glasgow.

When were you first aware of your deaf identify?

I was born deaf and it is all I have ever known…it is central to who I am, I’ve never not known it!

How did you first become involved with performing?

I was involved in drama class at deaf primary school in Singapore at such a young age – it was just a passion and hobby that I never thought of it as a career later. I was also involved in deaf theatre in Singapore for a few years before I decided to move to Liverpool for theatre studies.

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What is your art about? What are you trying to say/focus on?

The work I have been creating and producing is purely visual – the stories / narratives tend to focus on us – what it is to be human, human stories that all can relate to.

The challenge for me continues to be being visually creative with the work I produce and develop a visual theatrical vocabulary. This I’ve managed to do fairly successfully so far.

I continue to explore different visual elements and consider how these can be employed within the narrative being performed.

Snails & Ketchup / Skewered Snails was a good example of this – using aerial choreography to support the story. For Butterfly, inspired by the short story Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long, I employed choreography and puppets.

I like the idea that being deaf doesn’t affect how I work but rather provides me with a challenge – to make what I do accessible to everyone regardless of language.

Tell us about this show.

Butterfly is the newest production – Butterfly has been inspired by the short story Madame Butterfly by John Arthur Long – thoughts from this included; cultural differences and the different expectations between men and women, the trust from a woman and her betrayal and disappointment.

However, the most powerful image created when reading was how her child was taken from her – evoking much emotion based on her loss. It was this final image / thought that really inspired a desire to create Butterfly.

In life most of us will suffer some form of loss – it has various guises and impacts on us at different levels. This seemed like a ‘theme’ worth exploring, one that was universal and one that would almost definitely evoke some empathy.

There became a sense of wanting to explore how grief and loss manifest themselves both physically and emotionally. I do understand the loss of a child and it cannot be fully explained in words – the emotion is intense and overwhelming, it can and does impact on daily life and can make life itself difficult. This is a huge part of Butterfly.

What’s the best thing about it?

The best thing about it is that Butterfly has its own interpretation, which is refreshing, some people don’t enjoy ambiguity in a performance but I like leaving a show and having and sharing my own thoughts.

How can people see it?

The Scottish Tour runs from 29th January until 8th February 2015 – the venues and dates can be found at Ramesh Meyyappan Productions Facebook page or www.rameshmeyyappan.com.

Also we are bringing Butterfly to International Visual Theatre in Paris next June 9th-14th.

What is next for you?

Interestingly I am looking at a new project for Children’s Theatre – I’m playing with a few ideas. I do think there is a need for children both deaf and hearing to have some sort of exposure to deaf artists.

I have also been awarded an artist’s bursary from Creative Scotland – to explore options for making traditional texts based theatre accessible to deaf audiences while appealing to mainstream theatre audiences.

Working with director(s) to consider their approaches to text and using this to explore the creation of a “a visual dialogue” as part of the texts theatrical language.

Simply put, I’m looking at how to work with traditional texts as a deaf director and a performer and how these can be made more accessible.

Butterfly will be performed at:

The Arches, Glasgow: 27th January

Macrobert, Stirling: 29th January

The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen: 31st January

Norwich Puppet Theatre: 7th February

Find out more at Ramesh Meyyappan Productions Facebook page or www.rameshmeyyappan.com.

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Posted in: interviews