In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Deafinitely Theatre, Talking Hands has been created in partnership with Paines Plough, allowing five deaf writers to share their stories of lockdown.
They are free to watch and can be viewed on the Deafinitely Theatre website and their YouTube channel. Their umbrella name and monologue construction harks back to Alan Bennett’s two series for television, Talking Heads.
In these five films, each is performed in British Sign Language (with subtitles) – each is a tribute to deaf writers and performers, dealing with their own personal stories in half an hour or less. Director Paula Garfield gives the series a certain style while allowing the message of each piece to be shared undiluted.
Life It Goes On by Abigail Gorman, directed by Garfield, performed by Bea Webster. Dara is planning her first get-together with friends since lockdown. As she prepares dinner she reflects on how people perceive racism, sexism, and gender identity. Webster’s performance is passionate and inclusive, and this play will both fire you up and leave you with a smile.
I Still Blame Myself by Lianne Herbert, performed by Kelsey Gordon. As a mother lets her young child sleep in her bed during the pandemic, she goes over events in her past which have impacted on both of them. Gordon captures the strength of the character and her unconditional love for her son.
Keeping Hope by Melissa Mostyn, performed by Nadia Nadarajah. This parent/carer has to deal with suddenly taking on 24/7 care of her daughter, who has cerabal palsy, when her school is closed down due to lockdown. With little support, is she able to cope? Nadarajah is deeply convincing throughout this piece.
The Woman I Am written and performed by Samantha Pearsall. Sam is waiting for a package while she flicks through family photographs and tells us about moments from her childhood. A journey of self-identity and resilience, beautifully performed and full of surprises.
Lockdown Hairy written and performed by EJ Raymond. Robin has just moved house during lockdown with her teenage son, but is this the only big change in their lives? With much to say on gender and how authority deals with deaf parents, this is an absorbing watch and a strong characterisation from Raymond.
These plays are very enjoyable, tightly crafted, and both entertaining and educational. Deafinitely Theatre is a company I started to engage with during lockdown, and it is great to see this project come to a conclusion with the release of the final two films.
Whether accessed as a web series or as individual titles, these shows are well worth a look and in both style and substance are exceptional.
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