Teresa Garratty: An interview with Deaf actress Clare-Louise English

Posted on August 4, 2016

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I had a word with the boss aka The Chicken and this month he’s decided to let me do an interview, which is pretty good of him when you consider my terrible “people skills”.

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So, who exactly was fool enough to answer my nonsensical questions…?

May I present to you, talented deaf actress….Clare-Louise English!

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Here’s an actual photo of Clare-Louise, not that you need it though, since my drawing is (as usual) 100% accurate.

CLE Photo

Anyway, I should probably shut up and let Clare-Louise say/type something now. Clare-Louise, give us an intro then, who the devil are you?!

Hello! Who am I? Well I’m a performer and Theatre Maker and I make up one half of the company Hot Coals Theatre the other half is my talented partner in crime, Jo Sargeant.

I was born hearing in a hearing family but lost my hearing after a series of operations between ages of 9 and 14. I’ve been kicking about in the industry for ages, but 5 years ago I was lucky enough to go to RADA to train on the MA Theatre Lab and my life and career totally changed from there on.

Where might we have seen you doing your “actor thing”? We don’t need your whole resume mind, so try not to bore us to death….

Ha ha I’ll try! Actually I have just finished a tour of The Very Magic Flute with The Krazy Kat Theatre Company. This was a lovely piece for children which combined spoken English, BSL and puppetry so was completely accessible for Deaf children and their families and we toured theatres and schools across the country. It was so much fun and I learnt so much, which I can take to my own company, actually Kinny, the Artistic Director, has become a bit of mentor to me.

I’ve also done a couple rehearsed readings with Deafinitely Theatre this year, to showcase some of the writers on their writing programme. Deafinitely are a great company, I love their work, certainly a company I’d like to do more with.

My own company Hot Coals started in 2012, so that keeps me really busy too. Our first show, Storm in a Teacup, toured the UK and internationally and was an absolute blast to do!

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Has she finished…? FINALLY! (Just kidding!) So you’ve been a very busy bee then, have you had any favourite roles in the past? (If she doesn’t say Dr Barton in The Quiet Ones, which I wrote and directed, she’s DEAD TO ME!)

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…Oh yes…The Quiet Ones! That was definitely my favourite! No seriously, what I loved about that was the mix of people; Deaf, hearing, hard of hearing, those born Deaf, those like me who became deaf later, those who’s first language was BSL, those who were learning BSL and those who didn’t know any.

I loved the melting pot of people across cast and crew and the way we all worked together regardless and found our own ways. I’d love to see more film sets and theatres working like this.

I always say that Deafness and hearing is a spectrum and we all sit on it, just at different points.

Nice save, Clare -Louise, you shall live….for now…So what are you doing at the moment? Or do you just sit around staring aimlessly into space when you’re meant to be working, like me? (Don’t tell the boss!)

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So our current Hot Coals show is called Finders Keepers, and combines physical theatre, clowning, puppetry and music. It’s about two tramps who live on a junkyard, an old man and his daughter (I play the old man, obviously!) and they find a tiny baby that’s been abandoned amongst the rubble. The story follows their journey as they figure out how to look after the baby, and form bonds with it, then there is a little twist at the end, which I wont spoil now!

It’s both funny and moving, I hope.

Sounds great! How did the show come about? What’s the process been like?

Long! Our shows usually take a year or so just to create. We start off with a single word that we use as a catalyst for ideas, and we start with R&D’s around that, often inviting other practitioners and performers to play with us. Then from those ideas we start to hone in on the particular direction we want to go in, and we start to look for pre-existing stories that explore some of the themes we’ve identified and we look for the gap in the story that can be filled in.

For our first show the story was Three Sisters and we took the sisters into their 80’s to Moscow and asked what life was like now. For Finders Keepers we took the beginning of the story of Moses and transported the narrative to a strange, quirky alternative world.

And what about accessibility? Are deaf people going to be able to enjoy this show? Do you look after your own, Clare-Louise? DO YOU?!

Yes absolutely, we created this show specifically to be inclusive to both Deaf and hearing together.

Our last show had very little spoken word, our style is very much clowning and ‘cartoon for the stage’, so it was no big leap for us to dispense with text altogether for this piece. Instead we tell the story through physical comedy, clowning and visual story telling.

For every sound cue in the show there is a light or visual cue to match, for example every time the baby cries a set of festoon lights on stage flicker.

The piece is inclusive to everyone no matter what your first language is.

Oh…well, that’s all right then. What’s next for the piece, when can this lot go and see it?

Well we have just started a month long run up here at Edinburgh Fringe, which is so exciting this being the biggest festival of its kind in the world! It’s such a crazy hub of creativity and talented people.

So if any one reading this is coming up, please come and see the show and say hi! We are on every day at 11.45am at Zoo Venues, The Aviary, for the whole month, phew!

Wow, that’s great! To Edinburgh! Great to see you doing so well and getting accessible Theatre out there…don’t forget where you started though, eh Clare-Louise…

Ha ha! Too true!

Don’t worry I won’t forget you when I’m rich and famous! I’ve always been a ‘head in the clouds feet on the ground’ kinda girl.

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Can we expect to see more from you in the future?

Well, I think we’ll need a well-earned rest after the madness that is Edinburgh Fringe!

Then Finders Keepers starts a UK tour mid September through to end of October.

And I’ve just found out I got onto the Level 3 BSL course at Remark! which also starts September.

Then next year we’ll start making a new show with Hot Coals.

So not that much of a rest then!

And of course I would love to work with a host of other companies too- I wont list them all here, but if I’m not in your next film YOU’RE DEAD TO ME!

 

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Well played. I just have one final question for you before I shut down my computer, it’s a bit of a toughy…If Cinderella’s shoe fit perfectly….why did it fall off in the first place?

The romantic in me says she deliberately dropped it so the Prince would be able to find her again.

But if Cinderella is anything like me at the end of a party, she was pissed and her feet hurt!

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So that was Clare-Louise English, fantabulous deaf actress, theatre devising extraordinaire, and (like Cinders) drunken shoe misplacer!   Don’t forget, If you’d like to support her show Finders Keepers, get down to Aviary @ Zoo 11.45am, 5th – 27th Aug. Ticket: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/finders-keepers

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