A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Deafinitely Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe.

A play by William Shakespeare performed in British Sign Language (BSL) by Deafinitely Theatre seemed inconceivable to some so I was most interested to see how it fared in a language that was so beautifully visual to that of the equivalent in written form. There is nothing like this available in mainstream theatre nowadays so there is a new world opening up hence making this my very first time to see a show of this nature – to experience it without having to read the synopsis in a programme during the interval.

By Deafinitely Theatre
By Deafinitely Theatre

Naturally, when a spare ticket was available after reading favourable reviews by friends, I grabbed the opportunity to seize the day and looked forwards to it tremendously, not knowing quite what to expect and experience. Just that I was “in for a real treat!” Everyone seemed eager to watch such a play of which we had all read great reviews about, inevitably making us all the more inquisitive. It seemed extremely apt that a play by Shakespeare was being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. Seeing the Globe in all its uniqueness and glory gave me a sense of the individuality and era of the times.

The Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre

I had only studied Hamlet at school and the old English still fascinates me yet how could a play by Shakespeare be transformed into sign language? The best thing to do was to forget about trying to figure it all out and just enjoy every moment, absorbing the whole atmosphere which had brought together a mixture of hearing and deaf people together. The community spirit was once again alive – this was of more importance.

Photo by Daniel Ondiz
Photo by Daniel McManus

Sounds of mystical music started to play live on stage, the performance was about to start! Faeries came alive setting the play into motion. Summarised captions were available at a certain height either side of the stage. As the show started to gain momentum, the whole experience started to be realised. “Puck” (Alim Jayda) by far was the most eye catching, who delved into character from start to finish being able to multi-task signing, acting and speaking albeit mischievously. “Bottoms” though, was my favourite as he (David Sands) managed to *really* make me laugh. “Hippolyta/Titania” simply wowed me. “She” was performed by a girl called Nadia Nadarajah, who I first met when she arrived at an old school of mine, being only 11 years old. It was such an honour to be able to watch everyone, to see how Nadia’s confidence had bloomed and who she had become since our school days. The overall passionate acting by the whole cast made up with a mixture of hearing / deaf actors and actresses some of whom are also CODA’s, well and truly brought the stage and the Globe’s spirit alive, leaving everyone feeling exceptionally impressed.

Photo by Heidi Robertson.
Photo by Heidi Kovisto-Robertson.

Watching a show, which seemed to have been adapted integrating the old with the new, in sign language – I find it immensely hard to put into words. As actions speak louder than words – some of you will know the score. The feelings, sights and sounds experience of it all I had never felt before. The sun was shining, a cool breeze could flow – a pigeon would swoop by, live refined music was being gently played setting the mood. The talking hands and body languages in silence was simply breath taking and an art form in a class of its own. Having loved each and every minute, I could now understand how a written play could be transformed into a visual yet very speech rendering show. Perhaps, not ideal for children as there was adult humour evident also. A thoroughly truly magical yet sensational and unique experience – one I would love to experience again. And again. And again!

Also one, I would highly recommend you to see.

Once the notion the show and experience of it all was ending, I felt sadness at having to leave the whole setting. Stepping through the antique doors of the Globe, it was clear as day Fate had decreed a group of old school friends were to meet once again at the very same performance on the same day, after many years!

Tammy, Louise, Andrew, Sara and Emma - Friends reunited.
Tammy, Louise, Andrew, Sara and Emma – Friends reunited

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Other reviews:

As quoted in the The Guardian‘s review regarding Deafinitely Theatre of their 2012 Globe to Globe production of Love’s Labour’s Lost
‘Deafinitely’s aim has always been to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing audiences, and the gap gets smaller here. It’s not only a new approach for existing Shakespeare fans; it also provides a great introduction to the playwright…… Definitely, I’d say, theatre for everyone’

As quoted in a review by Laura Seymour who is writing a PhD thesis on cognitive theory and Shakespeare in performance:
“This production’s mixture of British Sign Language, visual vernacular, and other visual storytelling (always arresting even to this non-signer, though I definitely understood the sign Quince was using for ‘Bottom’), and its continual, gently atmospheric background music, perfectly encapsulates Deafinitely’s mission to provide a theatrical experience that is inclusive of both Deaf and hearing people, and both those fluent in British Sign Language and those who cannot sign.

Interestingly, the moments when I felt the audience most came together were when the converse was true of the characters: when the mechanicals made visible the gap between the Deaf and hearing characters among them. Here, moments of misunderstanding or wilful misinterpretation were a delightfully innovative way of bringing out the humour in what Shakespeare intended to be a hashed, misread, and atrociously acted play-within-a-play.”

Look Up.

Irony at its best.
Irony at its best.

The very first time this video by Gary Turk appeared on our Facebook group, the consensus was one of which “Ah this is nice, Thank you” as if to say “Thank you for the reminder”.

Whereas the second time it paid a visit, the reaction was somewhat mixed. It provoked thoughts, emotions from within and flashbacks of the past.

A member who shared their thought “He makes a lot of interesting points about the socially isolating aspects of social media and technology, which I agree with, but it is very one-sided, from his point of view. He ignores the positive aspects of it, such as how technology can improve and change people’s lives and how powerful social media can be to share and exchange information rapidly and widely and how people can feel connected and part of an online global community. Nothing will ever replace physical interaction and real-life experiences but social media, if used sensibly and well, can be a very powerful means of communication. The internet has been revolutionary for everyone.”

Another member remarked “The Internet is the best thing to happen to deaf people for centuries. For the first time ever, we can talk to one another on an equal basis with hearing people. It has been hugely empowering and that is why I get so angry when people misuse it for bullying and manipulating others. We have never had a chance before to discuss ideas that matter deeply to us on a national and international basis.”

Before the internet and mobile phones were readily available, many deaf parents had to ask their relative or child who happened to be hearing, for their assistance in making important phone calls for them, translating and so on. The first sign of freedom came in the form of pagers, receiving communication and to be reassured in my mum’s case for example:  “I’m on my way home” or “Please can I have a lift?” et cetera. Next came the internet, mobile phones and now smart phones…. Deaf people could now be more independent and sort out their own finances online, correspondence could be sent instantly and we could keep up with one another in real time. No more waiting several days for the postman and no more waiting until the next deaf pub to see friends in order to make arrangements.

Perhaps, the internet has played a part in the decline of deaf pubs – a place where masses of deaf people could commune and catch up with one another which for some, was as little as once a month. People were now able to text one another to make arrangements, use Skype or Facetime to have that crucial face to face chat. We were now on a par with the hearing society. Having access to a visual platform gives us the independence and means we very much needed.

Social media then exploded. I was very hesitant to sign up and in the beginning would only use it for family. Eventually old school friends arrived on scene and with practise came experience and confidence. One day this was quashed by a bully who thought he could manipulate me. The internet and mobile phone services gave him a confidence that he was anonymous to me from behind a screen and a mobile number. Being me, I managed to work out who he was and he fell into a trap by confirming his name. He panicked and relatively sent me death threats. Which I kept as evidence for the police who gave him a warning. Since then, I had learnt to keep most everything as evidence – just in case. I became ultra-cautious of everyone but on the other hand, I have met and made some new friends who I cherish and look forwards to making more although, I believe in quality rather than quantity.

Without the internet, many of us would not have found several of our long lost relatives and childhood friends yet without electricity, this would not have been possible.

But… There are social media groups and people who use social media (in other words is just a platform for them to use) who abuse the guidelines which are there for a reason – to protect the users and the members. Dangerously, the delusions of grandeur and power trips which feed their ego and their characters determine their fate because with actions comes consequences. It is only those who can remain true to themselves and retain a level head that will in time see past the falseness, the drama and people’s manipulative ways, succeed due to experience and honesty – which is the best policy.

For most, the internet has its pros and cons. The cons of which I have mentioned and conclude the internet is a very dangerous place indeed. It has at one point managed to destroy my heart and soul but here comes the pros because as always there is a balance – it has also saved me from disconnecting with my family and friends, some of whom have proved very inspirational to me and are the main reasons behind why the Tree House was built and especially why, it keeps on growing stronger. Healing my heart and soul with love and laughter.

In order to get the best you deserve, you need to give your best otherwise you will get what you give. Fate works in mysterious ways and decrees what we do, who we are and teaches us how to be so “Look Up”, find the balance and enjoy life – it is what you make it.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Why deaf people make better drivers.

As a young girl I remember the shocked expressions on my hearing friends faces when they finally realised my mum was going to drop them off home, by car… “Can your mum drive?!” would be their usual question “But she’s deaf… how can she drive?!” would be their usual response. They would sit in the back of the car looking very nervous indeed. One friend even wanted to strap all three seat belts on?!

Anxious...
Anxious…

So it is a very “Well done” to people like Muneeb Ahmed who is a deaf driver that overcame the doubters at a Derby taxi firm. Who is believed to be the UK’s first deaf taxi driver.

Lately some questions arose such as:

“Is it safe to let deaf people drive?”

Of course it is safe for deaf people to drive, if anything they would make better drivers due to the power of their observation skills because deaf people tend to use their other senses more so relatively is much more visibly aware of what is happening around them. Except they would not be distracted by screaming children, the radio, music players or mobile phones. Consequently their focus whilst driving is 100%. In fact, it has been proven that deaf or hearing impaired people are better drivers, with fewer accidents or mishaps.

A car bumper sticker.
A car bumper sticker.

“How would deaf people know if an emergency vehicle wanted to get by?”

Deaf people will use the traffic around them as a guide whether an emergency vehicle is nearby – cars start to move over also by using the sides and rear view mirrors for the flashing lights as those are easily seen.

“Is it Legal for deaf people to drive?”

Really?! What a stupid question to ask – If hearing people can play music which is blaring out of their sound systems how can they hear if emergency vehicles are approaching? There is no hearing requirement at all to be able to drive so it is not illegal. As long as everyone keeps their wits about them, use their vision and don’t try to lip-read passengers or sign to them which inevitably breaks one’s concentration. Regardless of the fact that deaf adults have better peripheral vision.

Some CODA (Child of Deaf Adult(s) have been known to respond to questions like these with “My parents have super eye powers!” 😉

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Please feel free to follow us on Twitter @treehouseviews and join our Facebook group “The Tree House”.

Making a complaint regarding NHS and/or Government services.

Sharing some mutual concerns that these days there are quite a few organisations and charities which potentially have good intentions but they are misleading when they can make one think they have power to make a change within the NHS. So please, be aware of those. This gives us another reason why the UK needs an approved governing body for deaf issues.

The ones who can actually make a change would be the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who I recently contacted as they did not provide any videos in British Sign Language (BSL) Eventually they replied with a link to their YouTube channel which was not good enough for the deaf community as the access via their website did not provide this. So once again I contacted them via Twitter…. eventually they provided me with a link much to my delight, now showing equal access to their context just as the other needs were met. Thank you CQC, for adding this format to make your context more accessible for BSL users too.

They the CQC, as a regulator, a major part of their job is to monitor services’ performance against national standards such as:

  • treatment, care and support provided by hospitals, GPs dentists, ambulances and mental health services.
  • treatment, care and support services for adults in care homes and in people’s own homes (both personal and nursing care).
  • services for people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.

CQC    CQC

Another service one could choose from is the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombusman whose role is to investigate complaints that individuals have been treated unfairly or have received poor service from government departments and other public organisations and the NHS in England. They too have added a BSL video on their website “make a complaint”.

There is another alternative which is potentially Healthwatch. Who state on their website, are the national consumer champion in health and care. They have significant statutory powers to ensure the voice of the consumer is strengthened and heard by those who commission, deliver and regulate health and care services. Here is their video “What is the Healthwatch Network” which is in BSL and subtitled.

Also there is the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who commission most of the hospital and community NHS services in the local areas for which they are responsible. Commissioning involves deciding what services are needed, and ensuring that they are provided. CCGs are overseen by NHS England, which retains responsibility for commissioning primary care services such as GP and dental services, as well as some specialised hospital services. All GP practices now belong to a CCG, but groups also include other health professionals, such as nurses. (You will need to find your local CCG to contact them.)

Services CCGs commission include:

  • most planned hospital care
  • rehabilitative care
  • urgent and emergency care (including out-of-hours)
  • most community health services
  • mental health and learning disability services

Please contact the CQC, Ombusman, Healthwatch, CCG and your country councillors (as one or more is delegated to liase with the NHS) via their website links as provided on this blog to make your complaint and voices “heard” otherwise, how will they know the deaf / hard of hearing community exist? How will they truly make changes to meet our needs for equality and full inclusion? If we cannot share our experiences directly to them and that we too have a voice of our own (which others may be taking advantage of for their own gains).

There are those who do have genuine intentions and want to bridge the communication barriers between both the hearing and deaf worlds – I tip my hat to those but nevertheless, please keep your wits about you and look outside the box, to see which service will and can make a change, for the better. For inclusion and equality within the NHS and government services on an united basis.

Please take a moment to remember those in developing countries especially where there is evidence of corruption, bribery and lack of rights for the residents there. Those who face difficulties and challenges a hundred fold due to their disabilities. I have seen with my own eyes how their governments have neglected them and believe me, some people in this country take for granted just how lucky they are. To have roofs over their heads, warmth, comforts and food. Free NHS and plentiful medicine. I have no issues with those who want to strive and improve on what we already have in a positive sense. Yet we should not rest on our laurels. It is important to keep the people in charge in check otherwise the standards will inevitably drop. Imagine what it would be like, if you could not express yourself via spoken word or sign language, being unable to read or write?

Thank you for your time and patience.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

A plea for change by Hulusi Bati.

To whom it may concern,

When my wife first started experiencing labour pangs, we immediately went to the hospital. We were then taken to the birthing room where my wife was checked by a mid wife. She spoke to my twelve year old daughter who was put under pressure to relay to us in sign language what the midwife had said. My daughter felt very stressed due to the fact that she was being used as an interpreter when the staff should have made more effort to make arrangements for one. Especially if it is in their policy to provide one. Children are not there to be used as interpreters, in any sense. Be it a foreign language or sign language. It is not fair on them and it is potentially damaging. Please do not allow this to happen again in future. If my daughter was not present, how would the staff have dealt with the situation?

From a personal point of view, of which I am sure many other deaf people share a mutual natural concern, what would happen when we (the deaf community) suddenly have a car crash – how would the medical services deal with us? How can they feel 100% confident that they have covered all the medical questions and satisfied they have all the information they need? How can they reassure us? When they have no knowledge of sign language or a deep awareness of deaf issues. How can they do their job properly?

Being awarded a piece of paper after going on a deaf awareness course does not qualify them or the hospital in deaf awareness. Deaf awareness is not only about speaking clearly, tapping them to get their attention and so on. Deaf awareness is about knowing and understanding the predicament deaf people have to face every single day. The language barriers we have to encounter, the discrimination we feel, lack of dignity and inequality we see. Being treated as second class citizens. Holding at least a level 2 or 3 sign language qualification would not only benefit the staff and patients but the hospital too. Only then, can one say they have qualified in deaf awareness.

This is why a qualified and registered sign language interpreter must be provided to protect both the patient and staff in order to relay and convey the questions and answers to prevent any misdiagnosis being given, a more serious predicament from happening which is inevitable. One day a patient who is deaf WILL die from a misdiagnosis, a result of not being treated as an equal to that of other patients who are hearing.

Please prevent this from happening by taking heed and “listening” to our pleas. For change, action, equality and inclusion.

I would like to point out that a friend of mine (Sara Jae) has kindly transcribed my views in sign language into words for your reading ease. As I am unable to put pen to paper in order to convey my thoughts and concerns with confidence. This is my wife and I badly needed an interpreter during her ten day stay in hospital. She had to endure being manhandled, being given injections, watching our new born son being given injections – all without fully knowing what the injections are or what for.

Thank you very much for your time and patience.

Yours sincerely,

Hulusi Bati.

The Guardian’s article: Deaf couple angry with hospital over lack of interpreter during birth of son

How long before a deaf person dies in hospital for want of an interpreter? – This is inevitable.