Interview with charlotte arrowsmith, first deaf bsl actor in a mainstream rsc production the limping chicken la gasolina lyrics


For most actors, working in a Shakespeare play is most definitely on their bucket list. Yet for a deaf actor, opportunities to work in mainstream productions are still few and far between. I was delighted then to read how a talented deaf actor secured the role of ‘Cassandra’ in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Troilus and Cressida.

After experiencing what were then called Hearing Impaired Units, at 9 years old I went to St Johns School for the Deaf at Boston Spa, as a weekly boarder. At 16 I chose to go to Doncaster College for the Deaf to study sport, with the aim of becoming a professional sport coach. I also wanted to experience what it would be like to be fully involved in a Deaf Community, where BSL was the norm.

I like a LOT of things. Apart from all things Drama, I like long walks with my dog Oscar, relaxing over tea and cake afterwards. (A bit unhealthy I know!) I am a trained Drama Workshop leader and Facilitator. gas dryer vs electric dryer cost savings So when I am not acting/doing theatre work, I teach and lead drama workshops with both Deaf and Hearing young people and I enjoy it very much. The students reward me with their achievements every time. I am also an emerging Theatre Director and I am keen to make theatre creatively accessible for all.

I’ve always loved performing arts and as part of an NDCS initiative, my school, at that time in Walsall, won a regional heat leading to a performance at The Unicorn Theatre in London. This is where I met Floella Benjamin and a very young Paul Schofield, both really warm and encouraging to us highly excited little people. This little ‘Black Eyed Bean’ loved the experience so much and it sparked off my interest in the theatre and I wanted more. I think I was always an actor at heart but it took time to come to the surface partly due to the lack of opportunities for Deaf young people at that time.

There is a great deal within this role that has significance for Deaf people. save electricity images for drawing As a group we often experience ignorance, a lack of understanding of our communications, a failure to recognise that the message may be delivered differently but has equal value in terms of truth. gas x side effects liver Greg Doran (Artistic Director of the RSC and Director of ‘Troilus and Cressida’) and the RSC have taken the bold initiative of hiring a Deaf signing actor and this is a huge step forward for the future generation of Deaf Actors. I am so proud to be the first Deaf actor at the RSC using BSL.

It’s important to ask other actor friends for help, the ones you trust most to help you best, as it is always a learning curve every time. As actors, we always have to shape and nurture our craft. It’s not as simple as learning how to act just the one time, we are constantly having to polish our skills and make sure we are always on top of our game.

I therefore learnt the monologue: I translated it into modern day English, I then translated it into BSL, but then had to rephrase it for theatre and used a combination of Sign Theatre/sign mime/visual vernacular. I also had to be creative in how my character would express it; is she angry? Is she sad? Is she cursed with mental health issues which potentially could be damaging to her? I had to seek out how would ‘Cassandra’ be in that moment, by researching the scene and looking into her relationships with others in the scene at that time.

It was also an opportunity to ask questions about their characters and what the emotions are, the thought process for those characters and where they are heading in the scenes. It was a lot of soul searching, and finding meanings in every detail of the play. It was mind boggling in a positive way for me, just watching everyone discuss and question things.

One funny moment for me was when I was teaching Deaf Awareness to the actors and playing a variation of games, one in particular was the ‘Lip-reading/Chinese whispers/ game – it was hilarious! Everyone was so determined and they couldn’t believe how wrong they got it and they were laughing at themselves and they realised there and then, just how hard lip reading is.

They were opened up to a new world then, as we explored adding physical movements to the lipspoken word in the same way and everyone had a good laugh! It was definitely light relief for them and at the same time, I believe they respected me that bit more. It was wonderful to see them all work together, and working hard to make sure the other person was able to understand what they were ‘trying’ to say!

Well, as usual I had to apply for Access to Work – which is never easy as they don’t follow the work ethics of the Arts. As an actor my hours aren’t always a 9-5 and so being specific in their questions regarding hours and so forth was tricky! We got there in the end and were awarded the budget necessary and so I am grateful for that. Meanwhile I had to find out who was available to work with me on this job and that wasn’t easy either!! However I managed it and got a fabulous pool of interpreters to work with me for the duration of this job.

I am not the SOLE BSL user as Esther McAuley who plays the role of ‘Polyxena’ (my younger sister in the play) has level 6 BSL so it’s wonderful to have a fellow signer in the cast! I am therefore the only Deaf BSL user but being in this cast, and this job, it’s never been an issue at all and everyone treats me the same as anyone else and I work the same way as anyone else.

In terms of ‘accessibility’, some scenes are very visual, especially the fight scenes and the music is atmospheric. However the show isn’t made for access, but it shows the reality of when a Deaf person is added to the mix. gas 4 less redding ca It’s the reality of a sole Deaf character in a family of hearing people. Cassandra (my role) shows the world how frustrating and emotionally upsetting it is when people choose not or want to understand her.

I will be performing in this production until 17th November. I’m hoping for a week’s break (at least!) before I start again but in this work you take opportunities as they come up, so that might not happen. I’ve been asked to direct a few shows and to assist on a few projects till Christmas. I hope that my work here at the RSC will open more doors for me and I am looking forwards to whatever comes my way!

The RSC has a range of accessible performances, including Captioned and Semi-Integrated BSL, to help as many people as possible to experience theatre at its best. m gasol nba Upcoming performances at the theatre’s Stratford-upon-Avon home include two Captioned and a BSL performance of A Christmas Carol, on 20 December, 8 January and 18 January and two Captioned performances of Timon of Athens on 23 January and 21 February. More accessible performances, including for Matilda The Musical and for the RSC in London, can be found at: visit/access/assisted- performances/