I was invited to watch the press night of ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
It was a co-production with Graeae and directed by Jenny Sealey. As I sat down in anticipation, looking at the simple stage set up of a few intricate chairs and lights on the flooring, I wondered how the next two hours would play out.
The stage was surrounded by the audience in all directions and corners. ‘How will this work?’ I thought.
To see the BSL intro for the play, click play below:
Soon the lights changed to show the performance was about to start. We then began to witness all types of varying disabilities on stage. Some of the women – Angustias played by Nadia Nadarajah and Adela played by Hermon Berhane – could sign, some had wheelchairs and so on.
It was delightful to see Graeae include a wide range of visible disabilities in a performance where the writer Federico Garcia Lorca wouldn’t have foreseen this. Sometimes the actors on stage acted like an interpreter, whether deaf or hearing, to showcase their versatile skills in performance.
There were many screens for the text to be displayed on, although at times it was out of sync but that didn’t hinder the energy of the performance from the actors.
Wonderful splashes of bright colours were interjected at times as a stark contrast to the backdrop of the play and the costumes worn by the actors. Humour was also carefully woven into the writing in this otherwise dark piece.
Deaf mannerisms such as stomping the floor for gaining another’s attention were made to feel very natural as there were two deaf sisters in the family.
It was fantastic to see the actors expose their disabilities and supposed weaknesses to the audience such as Adela and Augustias using their voices confidently. This showed that they were not restricted to playing just one role.
There were beautiful moments when it was just Bernarda, played by Kathryn Hunter, with one deaf daughter and only British Sign Language was used. No text to translate for those who didn’t know BSL. It was short enough to not alienate the hearing audience.
The energy from the actors kept rising and rising until a shock ending happened. Before I knew it the play was finished! I wanted more and I would love to see another Graeae production near me again.
I would recommend you to watch this if you like your emotions going on a rollercoaster. Plus it also helps if you live near Manchester!
To book tickets, click here: https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/the-house-of-bernarda-alba
Lianne Herbert is a deaf professional writer. Lianne is also on a Copywriting course to enhance her freelance prospects. She is currently involved with the West Yorkshire Playhouse on a Playwright course.
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