You might remember my Limping Chicken article ‘Sign language in theatre should be art, not access’ last year, on using sign language as an artistic medium in theatre.
This year, Ramps on the Moon is touring their second production, and first musical, Tommy, and they have certainly achieved that!
I watched the press night performance at the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, and thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
Here are my 10 reasons for recommending that you see it.
- It is wonderful to see a Deaf actor playing the lead in a mainstream production. William Grint, who plays Tommy, is profoundly Deaf, and has performed with Deafinitely Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe. He is and is a fluent (and beautiful) BSL user, as is Donna Mullings who plays his mother. His step-father is played by Alim Jayda, whose real-life parents are both Deaf, so it is lovely to see an on-stage family all using BSL, and the three of them work wonderfully together.
- There are many main big roles in the show, and throughout the performance BSL is used by both Deaf and hearing actors. Although the majority of the hearing performers are clearly not first language BSL users, their way of communicating and always appears natural and realistic, making it engaging and easy to watch.
- Each Deaf actor has a singing ‘alter ego’, a vocalist who compliments and enhances the performances beautifully.
- During the musical numbers, sign language is cleverly woven into the choreography. The rhythms of music and signed languages are very different, but the company seemed to have created a way of merging dance and sign in a way that suited the show perfectly.
- The story has so much depth, comedy, tragedy, pathos that not only the Deaf and disabled audience members can empathise with it, but parents of Deaf and disabled children as well.
- The detail of the set is created by projected digital art – a stunning and ingenious way of engaging the audience with the progression of time through the play’s journey.
- Each scene is visually so rich, and pays so much attention to detail that it is impossible to miss any element of the story.
- As a Deaf person, I experience music as mainly rhythm through vibrations. Tommy blends live music, projection and movement so seamlessly I felt I was able to experience the music with all my senses!
- Each element of the production, the performances, choreography, design, music is so complementary, Tommy is a pure joy to watch from beginning to end.
- The production includes BSL, audio description, spoken English and captions – a truly accessible production for diverse audiences, and one that anyone can engage with. For me, as a first language BSL user, it was wonderful to be able to follow the story purely from the BSL dialogue, rather than having to read captions in English.
Tip: If you are Deaf, pick your favourite way of accessing the dialogue -either to read the captions or watch the BSL. It’s much easier to follow if you stick to one – and don’t worry! – Trust me, if you miss a bit you’ll catch up later!
Many thanks and huge congratulations to director Kerry Michael, who read my article about developing a creative way of presenting theatre in both BSL and English, and in Tommy he certainly has achieved that!
Congratulations also to Jeni Draper and Daryl Jackson, the production’s translation consultants who together developed such a beautiful and successful BSL translation.
If you can try to get a seat in the circle of the auditorium for a better view of the set!
And if you liked the film Grease, you will love Tommy!
Here is a review from BritishTheatre.com: http://britishtheatre.com/review-tommy-new-wolsey-theatre/
The tour will continue until 1st July 2017 and here is their details of tour: https://www.rampsonthemoon.co.uk/show/the-whos-tommy/
Nadia Nadarajah is fluent in eight languages – five sign languages and 3 written languages. She is deaf freelance actress and presenter. She performs regularly with Deafinitely Theatre company, who is currently playing a main character in Grounded and also works with Sue MacLaine Ltd, who performs in Can I Start Again Please.
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