Cast and creative team announcement - People of the Eye

The DH Ensemble is excited to welcome Hermon Berhane (Manchester Royal Exchange) to the cast of People of the Eye. Hermon will be joining cast member and DH Ensemble artist Erin Siobhan Hutching (Bristol Old Vic, Northern Stage at Summerhall), and taking over a role developed by DH Ensemble artist Sophie Stone (Dr Who, Ramps On The Moon) and PAD Productions' Emily Howlett (Crucible Theatre, Inside Number 9).

People of the Eye is directed by DH Ensemble's Jennifer K. Bates (Crucible Theatre, Dundee Rep) with movement direction from Jennifer Fletcher (The Mostly Everything People), technical / production management from Rachel Sampley (Alice's Adventures Underground), and interpretation / production assistant on tour Rachael Merry (recent graduate, Reading University). Andrew Muir (Soho Theatre, Deafinitely Theatre) will rejoin the team as dramaturg.

For more information on the tour, click here.

Supported by Arts Council England. 

Hermon Berhane

Hermon Berhane

Erin Siobhan Hutching

Erin Siobhan Hutching

Interview by Michael Richardson

"Additionally, their approach is underpinned by an understanding of theory, the rigorous application of tried and tested practice and a willingness to experiment with new methods when existing practice is found lacking. I would go further to suggest that their success wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the unapologetic confidence in and enthusiasm for the work demonstrated by the lead artists."  

Michael Richardson

Read the full article here

 

British Sign Language Access at The Sick of the Fringe London

In February, we were honored to work with The Sick of the Fringe and Love Language Ltd to provide BSL access for a 3 day festival at the Wellcome Collection. 

Over 20 events were BSL interpreted, with artists including Le Gateau Chocolat, Daniel Oliver, Brigitte Aphrodite, Jess Thom and many more welcoming the opportunity to work with skilled theatrical sign language interpreters. 

Lynn Ruth Miller in The Fringe is Turning 70! Interpreted by Naomi Bottrill Image Manuel Vason

Lynn Ruth Miller in The Fringe is Turning 70! Interpreted by Naomi Bottrill Image Manuel Vason

BBC See Hear host Maab Adam attended the event, and wrote the following review:

When I heard about The Sick of the Fringe weekend festival in London I couldn't wait to go. I love to attend interesting and fun events like this, especially when there is BSL access to all the information (knowledge is power!) I hoped it would be interesting and that I'd get the chance to meet some new faces and enjoy watching, learning, reflecting, and participating through art, theatre and talks. I can truly say, I was not disappointed!

The festival was held near Euston, across four venues. The main venue was The Wellcome Collection. I went on the Saturday and when I looked at the brochure I found it hard to pick which events to see, as there were so many and some overlapped. I decided to go to an event called "We Are All Going to Die!". I was drawn to this because death is an inevitable part of everyone's life, and I was interested to know more about how people cope differently with the death of a loved one. It was really insightful. We were shown video clips of real-life deaths and people dying. A lot of people only ever see death hammed up for the camera in films and on TV, over the top and trivialised. Watching these videos and hearing the discussion over the real experience of death was eye opening, and felt human and connective. I recognised the interpreter at this event, Kam Deo, from his BSL news page on Facebook. He interpreted the event sensitively and clearly, and through this I was able to really be involved in what what going on.

I chose the next event based purely on it’s fantastic name - “I’ve Got A Problem With My Thingy”. I assumed (like many of you might too!) that it had to do with a man’s….private area. I convinced my friend to come along with me because I am interested in health and how bodies work (yes, that’s really why I wanted to go!) I was so confident in my assumption about the content of the performance that when the performer, Malachi, asked the audience what we thought the show was about, I raised my hand and said “Private parts!”

It turns out it wasn’t that at all. It was actually to do with not being able to find the right words to communicate what you want to say. I’ll admit, at first I was a little disappointed, but I did admire the clever marketing on his part to get us all to come along! However, I soon forgot that when I became caught up in the performer’s fascinating life story. Malachi grew up with a strong grasp on language, reading classic books and poetry, admired for his prowess when it came to expressing himself through speech or writing. However, after a bike accident in which he sustained a brain injury, he lost the ability to speak. He had to relearn how to communicate through spoken language.

As he told his story, I couldn’t help but think about the concept of “jinxing” - he had been so confident about and proud of his ability with language, it was almost like he had jinxed himself. I felt really sorry for him, but despite the loss of these skills, he is aware he is lucky to be alive after such a serious accident. It is brave of him to share his story so honestly. The interpreter, Darren Townsend-Handscomb, did justice to Malachi’s story and matched his delivery. They had a very good dynamic.

We had to rush out early - saying thank you to the lovely Malachi - in order to get to another venue to another performance called “Gutted”. Luckily it was very easy to get to Camden People’s Theatre from the Wellcome Collection - although we had trouble figuring out exactly where the entrance is to the theatre!

I met up with more of my friends and we saw the interpreter, Naomi Bottrill, ready for the performance. I had to ask some hearing people to move from the front row so that we could see Naomi’s interpretation easily. They were very accommodating and moved seats without any trouble at all. The atmosphere felt very inclusive and friendly.

“Gutted” was completely different to the two events we had been to previously. This performance was all about shit! And food! The performer, Liz Richardson, talked about her problems with her stomach and digestion, as she covered herself in a variety of sauces, and offered pieces of cake to the audience. She asked some members of the audience to get involved and read from a script with her on stage. The show was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, so strange and unique! I felt really connected to the performer because she really involved the audience.

Naomi interpreted this piece with immense skill and vigour, convey all the nitty-gritty details with enthusiasm and complimenting Liz’s performance with a visual display of what was being described. It was so compelling to watch!

Overall I really enjoyed the day at the festival, absorbing a lot of new information and interesting performances. Since then, I’ve been telling my friends all about what I learned! Some of them are very disappointed they couldn’t make it and hope to come with me next time. A big thank you to the theatre company The DH Ensemble who co-ordinated the Deaf access at the festival, and to Love Language who provided many of the BSL-English interpreters.

Daniel Oliver in Weird Seance. Interpreter Kyra Pollitt. Image by Manuel Vason.

Daniel Oliver in Weird Seance. Interpreter Kyra Pollitt. Image by Manuel Vason.

Starring Your Pain panel discussion interpreted by Kam Deo. Image by Manuel Vason.

Starring Your Pain panel discussion interpreted by Kam Deo. Image by Manuel Vason.

Front of House Volunteers Needed!!!

The Deaf and Hearing Ensemble are looking for volunteers for their upcoming performance of 'People of the Eye' as part of the NOW'16 Festival at The Yard Theatre. Duties include welcoming audience members, responding to enquiries and giving announcements. Volunteers must hold a minimum of Level Two in British Sign Language and be open and friendly!

Performance dates/times: 7-11th June, 7-11pm. However, you can do as many or as few as you wish. For more information and to apply please contact Emily or Rachael at info@thedeafandhearingensemble.com with a short bio and some information about your interest in the role.

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Press Release - People of the Eye, The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble, The Yard Theatre NOW16 7-11 June

THEATRE (NEW WRITING/DEVISED)

Press Release                                                       

The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble with Erin Siobhan Hutching present

People of the Eye at NOW’16 FESTIVAL The Yard Theatre

7th—11th June 7.30pm, in double bill with Ira Brand Break Yourself at 9pm

A personal story about parents, sisters and the love that binds families together created for Deaf and hearing audiences on an equal basis

(Download hi res images from Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/130930564@N05/albums/72157667519247620)

Inspired by real events, this poignant new performance uses projections, sound, live performance and creative accessibility (BSL, spoken English and captioning) to tell the story of a family navigating their way through the Deaf world, focusing on memories, feelings of isolation and how we find the joy in difference.

People of the Eye tells the story of writer Erin Siobhan Hutching’s family, who had never met a deaf person before when her sister was diagnosed in 1983. Struggling to get a diagnosis from dubious doctors and then receiving conflicting advice from experts about whether to use sign language, the family had to find their own way through the Deaf world. Erin also drew on the experiences of others in the international Deaf community, particularly other Ensemble members, when writing the show.

Writer/performer Erin Siobhan Hutching, who co-starred in the 2013 UK tour of performance artist La JohnJoseph’s autobiographical “clusterfuck of sex, class, religion, gender, identity and ideology" Boy In A Dress, which inspired her to tell the story of her own unusual background, says:

“I wanted to create a piece which celebrates the beauty of sign language and Deaf culture, while not shying away from the complex idea of culture versus disability. It’s important to me to tell the story of both Deaf and hearing members of the family, and the contributions of the Deaf artists in the Ensemble have been invaluable in that respect. It’s a joyful, fun show, with lots of humour, but it tackles something we are all passionate about. We play with a mix of theatrical conventions including audience participation, physical theatre, direct address and video projections which visually represent sound, always striving to make accessibility part of the aesthetic instead of a tag-on. This is a show everyone can relate to in some way – the themes of childhood memories, sibling relationships and parental responsibility are universal.”

The Yard Theatre, voted #2 Theatre in London by Time Out readers, has chosen this piece out of over 200 hundred applications to perform in a double bill with award-winning theatre maker Ira Brand.

“Selected from hundreds of ideas received through open submissions, we’ve partnered five of the brightest new voices with five of the most inspiring and influential artists of today to form week long double-bills of daring and unapologetically new live performances.” The Yard Theatre

The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble encourage a shared experience for Deaf and hearing audiences. Formed in 2013, they are comprised of talented Deaf & Hearing artists, each with an equal voice. They were founded out of a week-long project with the Royal Shakespeare Company, looking at the relationship between Shakespeare’s language and Visual Vernacular/BSL, and has retained a strong relationship with the company. They were Forest Fringe Company in Residence in 2013 and performed at Forest Fringe and Northern Stage's Bloody Great Border Ballad Project, which won the Spirit of the Festival Award. They have performed at Pulse Festival, Forest Fringe, Shuffle Festival, Northern Stage and The Roundhouse. They were commissioned this year to create a new piece for Liberty Festival. This piece is being taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

People of the Eye is directed by Ensemble founder Jennifer K. Bates, who lead Solar Bear Theatre Company’s Deaf Youth Theatre for 4 years exploring this unique way of working and making theatre. Parts of the piece were devised with Ensemble member Sophie Stone, who has recently starred as Cass (a strong Deaf character) in two episodes of the TV series Doctor Who. Emily Howlett, founder of PAD Productions (Positive About Deafness), will perform alongside Erin Siobhan Hutching at The Yard.

Ensemble member Nadia Nadarajah, who was recently nominated for an Off-West End award, will provide support with movement and BSL. Award winning Deaf filmmaker Samuel Dore will be creating the video projections. The set is being designed by Wildworks Associate designer Myriddin Wannell.

People of the Eye is supported by The Yard Theatre and using public funding by Arts Council England.

This piece is accessible to D/deaf and hearing audiences through the use of British Sign Language, Spoken English and creative captioning.

Listings Information

7th-11th June at The Yard Theatre, Unit 2a Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN

People of the Eye, The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble with Erin Siobhan Hutching, 7.30pm

Break Yourself, Ira Brand, 9pm

Tickets £12 for both shows (multi-buy prices available to attend two or more nights of the 5 week festival)

Available from www.theyardtheatre.co.uk/event/now16week-5/

www.thedeafandhearingensemble.com  | @dh_ensemble| @people_oftheeye   | @erinsiobhanh| @YardTheatre

For further press enquiries, requests for tickets, interview or picture requests contact:

Erin Hutching, The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble - info@thedeafandhearingensemble.com

Click to Download the PDF of this Press Release. For a Word version, please contact Erin on the details above. 

My Year With The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble : The Journey Of People Of The Eye by Erin Siobhan Hutching

This post originally appeared at www.erinsiobhanh.com/blog on 31st December 2015

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

In September 2014, I was at a crossroads personally and professionally. I found myself back in London after a year away, looking for work opportunities and armed with an idea for a performance I wanted to make.

I had left London in August 2013 to work in Germany and New Zealand. New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud, hobbits and Flight of the Conchords, is where I consider home even though I haven’t lived there in nearly 10 years. I chose to leave a long tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Germany in order to be a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding, a difficult decision at the time – the actors among you will know that turning down work goes against the grain – but one which I certainly didn’t regret.  

While I was in New Zealand I met more of my sister’s friends within the Deaf community there, as well as her husband's Deaf friends visiting from America. The wedding was interpreted by a fantastic SLI, and the wedding party was both D/deaf and hearing. In the following weeks, I started to think about using sign language in my own artistic performance practice. Having studied acting and worked in the industry professionally for nearly ten years across six countries, I had not come across many Deaf theatre companies or companies making interesting accessible theatre. I had specialised in experimental physical theatre and then gone on to study imaginative text-based realist performance at Stella Adler, and I had always been interested in personal, autobiographical performance, but it had not occurred to me until this point to look to my own background - a family that communicates using a mixture of spoken English, New Zealand sign language, sign supported English and home sign - as inspiration for my work.  

With my sister and mother in the 80s

Returning to the UK with a kernel of an idea for a show, various pieces of research, transcripts of interviews I had conducted, and a couple of scenes written, I wasn’t really sure how to go about taking things further. I’d run a fringe theatre company with two friends in Australia a few years prior but since moving to the UK I had worked exclusively on theatre and film projects for other companies. I knew I wanted to get back to making my own work, but I didn’t have the professional networks set up to make the process smoother.

Then I found Jennifer Bates and The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble.

After an initial meeting to discuss the idea for the show, which I had tentatively named People of the Eye*, Jennifer and I met in a rehearsal room at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where she had recently become a Masters student, to try a couple of scenes - the two which were the most developed based on work I had already done on them. Then Jennifer was sent some information about a scratch night at the Battersea Arts Centre and we decided we may as well apply, thinking we probably wouldn’t be selected. But we were. Jen knew Sophie Stone was perfect for the project, and despite the fact that we didn’t have any money at all, Sophie generously agreed to be involved. We only had two rushed rehearsals to create a 10 minute piece, but we instantly found a shared language, connection with the material and desire to make something worthwhile.

Sophie and I at BAC

The beginning of 2015 brought an Arts Council application and an office/rehearsal space at LimeWharf in Hackney, where the team has been unfailingly supportive to artists such as ourselves and we made many valuable connections. For two wonderful weeks in April we were able to experiment and play. Jennifer strongly believes in utilising play theory in her rehearsals. I was very open to making changes to my written material, using it as a basis to devise from but to add or discard ideas where necessary, and Sophie is a very skilled and generous deviser, willing to contribute her own experiences and boundless imagination. We were also supported by outside eyes Stephen Collins, Nadia Nadarajah, David Sands, Tessa Parr and Lucy Ellinson. Our technical creative team Emma Houston, Gerry Maguire, Oliver Savidge and David Monteith-Hodge made invaluable contributions.

Rehearsal shots from our first R&D for People of the Eye, photo credits David Monteith-Hodge

We decided to invite the audience to share in open discussions after our first two performances - nerve-wracking for the artists, but ultimately very worthwhile. The company’s aim to create a space in which barriers can be broken down – performer/audience, D(d)eaf/hearing, across ages and cultural backgrounds – means that it makes sense for us to ask our audiences directly what they like and what they want to see more of. 

A small section of the post show discussion at LimeWharf, April 2015. From left: Sophie Stone, Erin Siobhan Hutching, Jennifer Bates, Sophie Allen (SLI), Tracey Tyer (SLI - seated)

Around this time we began to correspond with Matthew Caines, the editor of the Cultural Professionals section of the Guardian, who invited us to contribute an opinion piece. This really gave us the opportunity to think about our voice as a company, and what we have to say. Editing four artist's contributions down to the required word limit was probably the most challenging part!

We were invited to present 20 minutes of People of the Eye at Pulse Festival at the New Wosley in Ipswich, for the Suitcase Prize curated by China Plate, and to present the full work in progress piece for the Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse in London the next day. This was the second time the company had been invited to perform at The Roundhouse, and we hope for a long and healthy relationship with that wonderful venue. We were able to have a further two days of rehearsal before these performances, in which we added some material which we hadn’t had time to rehearse in our initial two week R&D, and rehearse some new transitions for the selection of scenes we would be doing at Pulse Festival. During this weekend Sophie and I stayed overnight in shared accommodation and we were set a series of tasks by Jennifer to develop our “sisterly” relationship outside the rehearsal room.

So that was May 2015. We knew we would be performing the piece at Forest Fringe in August, and I spent some time after The Roundhouse performance restructuring the material. We were fortunate to be offered a slot at Shuffle Festival in Mile End in July, in which we were able to trial the new structure and experience an outdoor festival environment in which audience members were free to come and go as they pleased. We even had a dog run on “stage” at one point! It was a really valuable experience because we were able to test ourselves by performing in a non-traditional space, and we received very positive feedback for our performance despite not having things we might take for granted in a more traditional venue, such as the ability to black out the space completely. The concept of Shuffle Festival, which is designed to bring together the community in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park with outdoor films and performances, is fantastic and it relies on volunteers. The festival began in 2013 and is curated by a local resident you may have heard of, filmmaker Danny Boyle.

At the end of July I headed up to Edinburgh to start working for the Gilded Balloon. The Fringe Festival is a truly unique environment, and it completely consumes those who venture to take part in it. I saw about 50 shows, of varying quality, but each of them helped me solidify my own ideas about what I wanted an audience member to take away from my work. Some particularly excellent pieces which were accessible for Deaf audiences were Can I Start Again Please by Sue McLaine and Nadia Nadarajah (who we’re proud to say is part of our Ensemble) and Graeae’s The Solid Life of Sugar Water. Inspiring personal pieces framed in original, innovative ways such as Jo Clifford’s The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven and Emma Frankland’s None of Us is Yet a Robot; beautiful physical theatre like Gecko’s Institute; and smart, snappy new writing like Made in China’s Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me, Ruaraidh Murray’sAllie and Action Hero’s Wrecking Ball also stood out as containing elements of the kind of theatre I’d like to make.

A number of the shows that I’ve listed were also part of the Forest Fringe's fantastic program and The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble’s Access Day there, organised with Solar Bear Theatre Company. Although I had little to do with the organisation of this (Jennifer does an amazing job at matching theatre companies with BSL interpreters) it was really gratifying to see exciting Fringe shows made accessible to D/deaf audience members, and to witness how allowing an interpreter to become part of the piece rather than standing off to one side can add an additional rich layer to the work. Forest Fringe is an essential part of the theatrical landscape, a safe, supportive environment for artists to present experimental, innovative and at times provocative work. We hope our collaboration with Andy, Ira and Deborah will continue for a long time. Forest Fringe also hosted the iF Platform's forum "iF Not Now, When?" on the same day as our Access Day, which meant we were able to share a venue with artists we admire such as Jenny Sealey of Graeae Theatre Company and Jess Thom (Tourretteshero) who were speaking in the forum, as well as catch up with the wonderful Paula Garfield from Deafinitely Theatre, who has been a real support to our company. As well as performing People of the Eye (still in a work in progress stage, but much further along than the early showings) and organising the interpreters for the performances, the Ensemble also set up a fun play area, created by our enthusiastic interns Rachael Merry and Angel Stone. 

Our play area, Forest Fringe 2015

Our play area, Forest Fringe 2015

Throughout the various work in progress incarnations of People of The Eye that we had performed, we had struggled to find an ending, feeling that the story was unfinished. Perhaps the pressure of telling a story which is so personal to all of us contributed to this. We tried many different things but each time the story felt incomplete – fine for a work in progress, but we are aiming towards a full show. Finally, during our only day of rehearsal before Forest Fringe, something clicked. The humour in the piece is very important to us, as is the relationship between the two central characters, the sisters. We were able to develop an ending for this performance which felt right, and we were told by several audience members that we should take the “work in progress” off our show title, as it felt more complete than many other shows they’d seen at the Fringe. The company agreed that this was the best performance we had done yet, but we also agreed that we want to rework it significantly before we present it as a full show in 2016.

At this point in time we are looking for a videographer/animator to work with us to visually represent soundscape and develop creative captioning. We would love to work with a D/deaf animator or videographer alongside our hearing soundscape artist, in the spirit of the Deaf & Hearing Ensemble. We are also looking for a D/deaf choreographer to work with us on movement and improve our BSL for performance. We’ve got some exciting opportunities on the cards for this show in 2016 which we hope to confirm and share very soon!

In addition to working on People of the Eye, The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble is producing an event on 1st March at Genesis Cinema where artists are invited to present 10 minute scratch pieces which are accessible for D/deaf and hearing audiences. We are aware that there aren't many opportunities for D/deaf artists to present work in progress pieces in the ‘mainstream’ theatre community, and that many hearing artists are interested in developing accessibility in their work but they may not be sure how to approach it. We hope to provide a platform for both of these things to occur.

In October, Jennifer and Sophie facilitated a workshop with Southwark Playhouse's Young Company which was received enthusiastically. Hopefully we will be able to expand our work with Southwark Playhouse to include running workshops for a group of young Deaf & Hearing perfomers in 2016. Ensemble members Nadia Nadarajah and David Sands ran a schools workshop which received excellent feedback earlier in the year, and this is an area we'd like to move into.  Jennifer also ran a workshop at Solar Bear's Progression 2015 conference, setting the attendees of her workshop playful tasks to improve communication and break down barriers. 

The Ensemble has also been awarded a commission to conduct a Research and Development with the aim of creating an outdoor performance for Liberty Festival. 

Apart from working with the DH Ensemble, in 2015 I have been lucky enough to work with a range of talented artists - I reunited with La JohnJoseph to being work on a new piece; worked with a new immersive heatre company Hush Hush Hoopla; continued producing my own staged play reading event World Dramaturgy with Elena Liutkute focussing on international scripts ; worked on a theatre research week with Admiration Theatre; and appeared in a few small TV and commercial roles. I have new actor representation - APM Associates. All of this work is significant. However, I feel that I have found a home in a supportive environment and a niche for myself as an artist in the cultural landscape with The Ensemble, contributing what I can as a performer, producer, deviser and writer to helping this exciting, unique company grow. The artists who have worked with The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble rotate on a project by project basis but once you are part of the Ensemble, you always will be. We look forward to welcoming new members in 2016.  

* "They are first, last, and all the time the people of the eye.” – G. Veditz, 1910. This was the inspiration for the name of the play.