the RSC’s semi-integrated sign language performances

Today I came across a blog post on the RSC site, in which a fellow with a smallish part in their tour of Hamlet discusses his experience of working with the British Sign Language interpreter for their semi-integrated signed performances for the D/deaf, for which the sign-language interpreter performs in costume and in character. Well, I shouldn't say performances for the D/deaf, as the audiences for the signed performances are mixed (as are the audiences for unsigned performances, I imagine) and part of what is interesting to me is the experience of those in the audience that are not D/deaf (as I am not at this time).

Anyway, I have no well-thought-out comments at this time about the integration of sign-language interpretation into theater, except that it seems to be a significant challenge, and I'm thrilled to see the RSC pushing forward with better ways of rising to it.

One of the things I found interesting, in the blog post, was Becky Barry, the BSL interpreter, inventing signs for the names of the characters in the play, which had not occurred to me would be a useful, possibly vital, part of the interpretation. The video below begins with those names, and continues with a synopsis of the play.

I'm curious what any readers think about the process—would you enjoy a more integrated sign-language interpretation of live theater? Would the presence of an in-costume, in-character interpreter be distracting, particularly during intimate scenes? I find it difficult to imagine an integrated performer in, for instance, III,iii when Hamlet surprises Claudius at prayer. But that may be more of a difficulty of my imagination than of the integration. Have any of you seen a theatrical performance that you felt successfully integrated sign language?


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