Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Why should Alice in Wonderland be forever presented as a white, blonde and very
English ingénue? What if she was a little different, and the rabbit hole she
fell down not as enticing as her own fantastical uniqueness? These are questions
posed by director and performer Josette Bushell-Mingo on the second and final
day of Progression 2015, this weekend's international celebration of deaf arts
hosted by the pioneering Glasgow-based Solar Bear Theatre Company.
The answers come in the show-and-tell finale that follows a day of workshops with
some of deaf theatre's leading practitioners, including Bushell-Mingo and her
team from the Swedish Tyst Theatre (Silent Theatre), a company which has been
developing deaf theatre for forty-five years as an offshoot of the national
touring company, Riksteatern.
The loose-knit programme begins with some interactive games with the audience before Bushell-Mingo hands over to a mix of hearing and non-hearing teenage actors, both from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which has just announced the first ever UK-based British Sign Language
course for deaf performers, and from Solar Bear Deaf Youth Theatre.
As Alice becomes a Spartacus-like figure, a kind of communal empowerment is infused
throughout the young cast that enables them to conquer their demons and have
confidence in who they are. It's short, sharp and as fresh as any devised piece
created by a group of strangers over an hour that afternoon. Watching its mix
of speech and signing simultaneously translated into Russian for the benefit of
the Moscow-based Nedoslov company in attendance and then signed back to them
itself becomes a beguiling demonstration of the power the international language
of theatre can transmit beyond anything mere words can muster.
The Herald, September 29th 2015