What we talk about when we talk about Sign Integrated Theatre
In Red Earth Theatre shows, actors perform in both sign language and English. There are lots of different ways they do this so that hearing and Deaf audiences can understand and enjoy a performance together without anyone feeling left out.
The best way to get a feel for how this works is to watch a very short example from this video Mirror Mirror Video.
British Sign Language is the preferred language of many Deaf people. Our approach is to use a mixture of sign languages and techniques, including British Sign Language*, Sign Supported English* and Visual Venacular*. Through this method of Total Communication, we can reach audiences with a broad range of communication needs: Deaf, hearing, hard of hearing, learning disabled, people whose home language is not English and so on.
Regardless of their access needs, children find integrated theatre vibrant, dynamic and beguiling. They love it. For hearing audiences, the experience of simultaneous sign language and English is rich. The effect can seem like an extension of acting technique that is pleasing both to the eye and the ear.
It is worth bearing in mind that many people have never experienced integrated theatre. For Deaf theatre-goers, there may be an expectation of seeing a play made for hearing audiences with access provided by a BSL interpreter at the side of the stage. Increasingly though, Deaf audiences – especially younger ones – find this latter approach limited because they miss so much of the overall experience of a show by following the interpreter at the side rather than the action on stage.
British Sign Language: a visual language that uses hand shapes, facial expression, gestures and body language. BSL is a complete language with a unique vocabulary, construction and grammar.
Sign Supported English: uses signs from BSL but follows the word order of English.
Visual Vernacular: a theatrical and physical form of storytelling with strong body movements, signs, gestures and facial expressions. VV draws on cinematic ideas like close-ups, images dissolving into new images and so forth.
Total communication: makes use of a number of modes of communication in theatre including metaphor, symbol, costume, set, lighting, auditory, signed, oral, written.