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The Assistant Director, Andrew Muir, and the Creative Interpreter, Kate Furby, from Deafinitely Theatre discuss their experiences of creating Love's Labour's Lost in British Sign Language.




Andrew: My name is Andrew Muir and I am the Assistant Director to Paula Garfield [Director] and also I worked on the translation of the script.

Kate: I’m Kate Furby and I am the Creative Interpreter at Deafinitely Theatre and I am also part of the translation team.

What were the difficulties of translating Love’s Labour’s Lost?

Kate: It was the fact that this particular play relies so heavily on the English and the words and the way Shakespeare has written it, so I think the hurdle was about not losing that, and to remain faithful to it, and to create an equivalent that was accessible to a deaf audience as well. And I think another hurdle, another challenge for us, was a lot of the deaf actors whose first language is actually English and not BSL were very fearful of losing the Shakespeare, were very fearful of moving as far away from the script as we would have liked to to create a BSL equivalent. And I think it took a while to gain their trust that we were remaining faithful, we just had to go a different path in order to do so.

Andrew: One of the most difficult things about it is that because you are translating it from English into Sign Language, those actors and your director, and everybody else in the rehearsal room, need you to know exactly what it means because the question is then asked, “Well what does this mean?” And once I know what it means then I can go and translate it into Sign Language.

Kate: And we had to make a lot of choses as well because quite often with Shakespeare there is double meanings, triple meanings, quadruple meanings…

Andrew: Punning all over the place and metaphor…

Kate: Which sometimes works but sometimes you have to make a choice and you have to choose one of the meanings to go with, the predominant meaning, so we had to make huge decisions about every line, it was a massive conversation to be had.

Andrew: Absolutely. Trying to find the same beauty from the English language in Sign Language, that’s what we were trying to do.

Did you do any specific preparation for performing at the Globe?

Kate: The only preparation we could do was trying to use space in the best way we could and we mocked up some pillars with some chairs just to get the actors to use them. But unfortunately the rehearsal space that we had wasn’t nearly as big, so a lot of us were kind of stuck to the wall…

Andrew: The creative team were up against the wall and the actors were literally there. I think we had two or three opportunities where we were invited just to come into the space and have a walk around and have a look.

Kate: And we saw some plays as well. We were fortunate that the cast were really up for coming to see as much as they could, just to see how the other companies used the space. And I think as well, when we started the process, I think the actors wanted to be quite literal, and quite Shakespearean, and quite flowery with their Sign Language. And when we were trying to get things to be as big as possible to reach an audience and to make it accessible to a hearing and deaf audience of people, I think some of the actors were a little bit reluctant to stray so far. But when they saw the space and they were on there, they realised just how much work they needed to do to project their signing.

Andrew: There is always a battle I think, where you go into a space as big and as incredible as the Globe. What we found was some of the actors were worried and concerned about the truth of the character. We were asking them to go bigger, simply to communicate with everyone in the auditorium, so it meant that they sometimes were a little worried that because the Globe was so big, was it over-the-top? Was it still believable? Was it still truthful? And what we were trying to convince them was as long as truth is within them, whatever they do, whatever size it may be, it will be fine, it will be alright. And of course the other thing is with your voice in the Globe, it can carry. So if you’re facing out, with the voice stage left and stage right auditorium-wise, they will be able to at least hear it, whereas with Sign Language they are not going to see it. So that’s another skill we had to try and quickly adapt to, with us being able to move around that stage and taking the sign all the way round.

Kate: So actors not necessarily having to face each other. Because deaf people need to look at each other to be able to communicate and it was very unnatural for our actors not to necessarily face each other when they were signing.

Would you work with Shakespeare again?

Kate: Definitely! And we wouldn’t have thought about it until we were given this opportunity and now it’s something that we have really started to feel very passionate about and really want to do all the time. I think we are going to have to add it to our manifesto or something as a company.

How did you find the reaction of the audience?

Kate: They were fantastic.

Andrew: Absolutely brilliant.

Kate: And we had a really mixed audience. We had a lot of friends, the deaf community is great in London so there were a lot of friends of Deafinitely Theatre. But we also had a lot of regular Globe goers who are just up for anything and because they know their plays, they are very, very open as to how it’s presented and there were a lot of hearing people who laughed along with the rest of them. Amazing audience, brilliant audience.

What will be your lasting memory of performing at the Globe?

Kate: The weather! You know, being outside, in the sunshine, with an amazing audience.

Andrew: I loved the ritual at 2 o’clock with the booze to Dionysus…

Kate: The ceremony…

Andrew: That was very special.

Kate: And the Artistic Director…

Andrew: I loved what Dominic said, I thought that was absolutely beautiful. Yesterday he said to the entire cast, “You’re here, that’s it now, enjoy.” And that was quite magical, I think, as it really worked. I think everyone enjoyed themselves yesterday and that was special.


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