Have you heard about Deafinitely Theatre yet? I’ve made a slightly awkward pun there, as the company is the UK’s first deaf-led and launched theatre company. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and what an impressive run it has been so far! A total of 44 compelling productions including the first-ever British Sign Language Shakespeare play at Shakespeare’s Globe, Love’s Labour’s Lost. And the 2018 Off West End Award for Best Production winner, Contractions, the site-specific production by Mike Bartlett.

© Becky Bailey

Their newest play, “Everyday”, is written and directed by Paula Garfield. The show has just premiered at the Diorama Theatre, an intimate space located just nearby London’s Euston Station.

The play features Deafinitely Theatre’s unique bilingual style. There’s a mix of spoken English, British Sign Language (BSL), and expressional body language. Some parts of the play are accompanied by subtitles displayed at the back of the stage. You can feel how this production is slightly different from your usual play. Light design plays a very strong role in focusing the audience’s attention. Music deliberately uses lots of low bass and drums that vibrate and make everyone feel it through their feet. Main roles are performed by Fifi Garfield, Cherie Gordon, Zoë McWhinney, and Bea Webster – 4 fabulous actors representing the deaf community.

© Becky Bailey

“Everyday” was inspired by a set of interviews done with women and non binary people from the deaf community suffering domestic abuse. It’s performed under the ‘witch sabbath’ theme, in a small hut, where 4 witches meet to celebrate the New Moon, share stories and support each other. There are 4 stories, each touching a sensitive and frankly, quite triggering topic, from toxic relationship abuse to rape. The core story is very touching, but it’s also balanced by some humour, especially in the very beginning, as we get to know the characters. The first 5 minutes of the play showcasing the tea brewing process were hilarious.

As the play progresses, we get to experience a different style of storytelling with each of them. It’s quite a tricky task to direct such a varied play, and it has its highlights. But some parts just seem to focus much more on the delivery of the story, and less on acting. The stories that were the most successful in making the audience feel the emotions the most, were in my opinion, parts that used body language and very little spoken English. The last story, starring Zoë McWhinney was performed using very few words, but hit me right in the heart. As it slowly unfolded from an awkward-romantic meeting in the park, all the way to physical and mental abuse.

Bea Webster performed a short yet touching story about rape in the family and delivered the feeling of mental struggle using very clear expressions, without the need for words.

© Becky Bailey

The slightly weaker parts were the ones when the actor was standing in the centre of the stage, delivering the story in BSL. There was a lot of focus on conveying the message, but most of the time what was lacking was a facial expression that would add much more value to the performance.

The whole experience of “Everyday” is just so inclusive throughout, and I felt happy to be included in something which I normally don’t see much in my daily life (and even less, in the theatre!). The vibe in the auditorium just before the performance was heavy with gossip and catch-ups performed using BSL rather than the usual noisy chatter – and there was so much excitement in the air, you could feel it! The feel-good vibe continued after the show, as the New Diorama provided free pizza post-show for everyone (it’s a brilliant idea: I’m sure it will encourage more audiences to come to see the show, even if normally they don’t go out to watch plays daily). 

“Everyday” is a refreshing way to look at some of the heaviest stories from the deaf community. It found a way to balance the stories with lighthearted humour and make the delivery inclusive for anyone: whether you can hear, or not. It’s an interesting way to step out of the usual theatre bubble and experience a community you would normally probably not interact with (most likely). It’s not a perfect play by any means, but it holds a huge value for every participant.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Trigger warnings: The play explores issues of domestic abuse, rape and mental health, and contains strong language.

Everyday is on at the New Diorama until June 11th – for tickets and info click here

The show is then heading to Birmingham, York and Newcastle!

Learn more about Deafinitely Theatre here

© Becky Bailey

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