Bristol Old Vic champions deaf artists with two brand-new pieces of theatre this May

7 May 2019

This month, Bristol Old Vic welcomes ground-breaking companies Mr and Mrs Clark and Deafinitely Theatre into the Weston Studio to raise awareness and challenge perceptions of hearing loss and deafness. The Weston Studio marks the penultimate stop on Mr and Mrs Clark’s UK-wide tour of Louder is Not Always Clearer, a story of disconnection, difference and desperation to belong. Created and performed by deaf performer Jonny Cotsen it plays from 13 – 15 May, and marks the conclusion of the UK Council on Deafness’ Deaf Awareness Week (6 – 12 May), a UK-wide series of national and local events to raise awareness of the needs of the 1 in 6 deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK.   

The play centres on teacher, father and artist Jonny Cotsen. Jonny is deaf and shares his story through a moving, passionate multimedia performance, explaining how he negotiates life as a deaf man in a hearing world.   

For a hearing audience it is an illuminating and emotional experience. For deaf audience members, the show is a familiar tale of misunderstanding and isolation. For everyone it is a humorous moving story of one man’s attempt to belong.   

The show is accessible to D/deaf, hard of hearing and hearing audiences through the use of spoken English, British Sign Language and creative captions.   

Later this month, Deafinitely Theatre and Birmingham Stage Company will present the world premiere of Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf – Live On Stage! (29 May – 1 June). Birmingham Stage Company have produced Horrible Histories live on stage across the UK and throughout the world since 2005 and have now teamed up with Deafinitely Theatre to create the first dedicated production for deaf children and their families. 

 The show will open in Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio before heading on tour to York Theatre Royal, Stratford Circus Arts Centre, The North Wall and the Derby Theatre. 

Horrible Histories will delve into the dreadful, dangerous and deluded stories of the deaf – from groovy Greeks to gorgeous Georgians, ruthless Romans to vile Victorians. The bilingual production is suitable for both D/deaf and hearing audiences and features spoken English and British Sign Language. 

Deafinitely Theatre’s Artistic Director and Horrible Histories Director Paula Garfield (4.48 Psychosis), said:

A few years ago I watched my deaf children reading and enjoying Horrible Histories and I was struck by the thought that it would be wonderful for them to have a ‘Deaf Horrible Histories’, showcasing the stories, culture and communities of deaf people throughout history. I also wanted to ensure that D/deaf children today, whether signing or non-signing, can understand the history of their community and feel a sense of belonging and legacy. Horrible Histories is a fun, exciting way to learn and our bilingual production is designed for all to enjoy.”

Editor's Notes

About Mr and Mrs Clark
Mr and Mrs Clark live and work in South Wales, where they have been making performance, live art and dance theatre since 2002. Often their work has a playful and interactive element inspired by happenings and live art events that bring art forms and people together. They have a DIY approach to exploring and developing ideas. 
About Deafinitely Theatre
Deafinitely Theatre is the UK’s first professional deaf-launched and led theatre company, creating bilingual productions of classic and contemporary plays for deaf and hearing audiences that combine the visual storytelling of British Sign Language with the immediacy of spoken English.
Established in 2002, the company’s vision is a world where deaf people are a valued part of the national theatre landscape, recognised for the excellence of their work. Deafinitely challenges barriers to training and opportunities, working hard to nurture the next generation of deaf theatre makers and audiences through its continuing programme of productions, consultancy work and education and training activities for young people and adults.
The company’s most recent productions include 2018’s sold-out run of 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane at New Diorama Theatre and Derby Theatre and 2017’s award-winning production of Contractions by Mike Bartlett at ND2 (New Diorama Theatre) - winner of the 2018 Off West End Award for Best Production.
About Birmingham Stage Company 
Birmingham Stage Company is the award-winning producers of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny and Awful Auntie. The company produce all the Horrible Histories shows live on stage including the West End productions of Barmy Britain. The company also performs internationally, including David Almond’s Skellig on Broadway, and Horrible Histories at The Sydney Opera House.
Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf – Live on Stage! is made possible by the generous support of:
Arts Council Strategic Touring Fund, Autograph Sound Recording, Edwardian Hotels London, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Old Diorama Arts Centre and White Light Ltd.

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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