Stage, Theatre & TV21st August 2014

A Proud History of Signed Performances at The New Theatre

Signed and Captioned Performances Open up the Theatre to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Theatregoers

by Sarah Lawrence

The New Theatre in the centre of Cardiff has been attracting audiences young and old for many years to their wide variety of shows. With visitor numbers to the capital increasing as Cardiff gains world recognition, audiences are getting more diverse, with even the odd English family venturing over Offa’s Dyke to go and see a show. But what about Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, does the New Theatre offer accessible performances.

It is pleasing to learn that London based theatres are catching on that deaf people would like to go and see alltypes of shows, not just the Christmas Pantos which have traditionally had the odd interpreted performance. Captioned performances there seem to be on the rise and deaf friendly social media groups are often used to make group arrangements to attend these shows.

Of course, for a lot of us, London is a long way to go to see a show, adding significant travel costs to the price of the tickets, so it is pleasing to see regional theatres also picking up on the need for signed and captioned performances. I was interested to learn that the New Theatre has been offering BSL Interpreted performances for 25 years, and that they were in fact the first theatre in the UK to offer it. at a pantomime They first introduced captioned performances in 2009, taking advantage of the new, more affordable technology, that has become available.

Commenting on their offer of signed and captioned performances Matt told me, “We made the decision to increase access provision at the theatre. We regularly look to make adjustments either in the building or how the shows are presented to enable people to come along.” Demonstrating that this is not just limited to pantomimes any more, the New Theatre has offered 18 BSL interpreted and 10 captioned performances in the last 3 years.

I was pleased to learn that front of house and Box Office staff at the theatre have received deaf awareness training, an important step in the all-round theatre going experience for deaf people. Committed to staging signed or captioned performances as often as possible, the theatre needs show producers to contribute to the costs, and sadly, due to tight budgets they are often unable to do so. However, the theatre always try to ensure that the ‘big’ shows are either captioned or signed, as well as offering audio description performances for those people who need them.

“The captioned performances tend to attract more people as they are useful for people who may need help with the occasional sentence, not just people who require it throughout the show,” Matt explained.

For those that have never gone to a captioned performance, the captions appear on a screen that is next to the stage. It will show the words as they are spoken on stage, along with the key sound effects. In a BSL interpreted performance, a signer will stand on the side of the stage and translate the words into BSL meaning. Understanding that the position of seating for these performances are essential to clearly see the captions or the signer, the New Theatre offer seats in the front stalls at a price equivalent to the cheapest tickets in the house. This often reduces the price of those tickets to less than half price. This reduction is also made available to a companion of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing theatregoer.

In the next 6 months, the New Theatre have plans for 3 captioned performances and 4 BSL interpreted performances. The first of the captioned is The Perfect Murder on the 8th November and for BSL, it is Cinderella on the 8th January. Earlier in 2014, the theatre sent out a questionnaire about the signed and captioned performances and received positive feedback. Consequently, they are currently discussing BSL provision in Cardiff with Arts Disability Cymru and other Cardiff venues. Let’s hope more and more venues offer deaf friendly entertainment.

If you would like to keep track of the signed and captioned performances put on at Cardiff's New Theatre go to the link below. You will also find information about group meetings and other concessions:

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Entertainment / Stage, Theatre & TV

21st August 2014