Actors taking sign language to the stage

A group of actors from the UK's only degree course for deaf performers are taking their show on the road for the first time this week, with the hope that it will challenge public perceptions.

Left to right, Ciaran Alexander Stewart, E J Raymond, Daniell Melvin, Craig Andrew, Jamie Ra, Moira Anne McAuslan, Connor Bryson, Danni Wright, Petre Dobre, Bea Webster

The production, which blends British Sign Language (BSL) with spoken English, will be performed by students from the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The group of ten actors are all studying Performance in British Sign Language and English, a three-year degree course which is the only one of its kind in the UK.

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The ground-breaking BA allows deaf and partially deaf students to fulfil their dreams of becoming performers by using BSL interpreters in class, on stage and in rehearsal.

Some of the student actors have cochlear implants and can speak while others solely use BSL. During the performance there will be subtitles but no sign language interpreter.

The adaptation of Love and Information by the British playwright Caryl Churchill is made up of a series of short scenes about living in a world where humans are bombarded by information.

The tour opens at The Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock tomorrow and will visit Edinburgh, Glasgow, Giffnock, Inverness and Banchory.

Cast member Connor Bryson, 23, said he and his fellow students were able to use visual theatre in new ways to connect with audiences regardless of whether they could hear or not.

“The body and face are so ­undervalued,” he said. “More theatre companies should be looking at this. People in the deaf community I’ve worked with are wonderfully engaging and ­expressive in their use of BSL and I truly believe mainstream companies are missing out.”

Craig Andrew, 23, added: “I have a passion for visual theatre where there would be no spoken words or signs. ­Audiences, whether deaf or hearing, can enjoy a performance together.”

Claire Lamont, head of the degree programme at the Conservatoire, said Love and Information gives an insight into the “exciting creative possibilities” of working with British Sign Language and English.

“The work being produced with these students marks a defining moment in our theatre history and we look forward to the impact they will have in Scotland and beyond,” she added.

“The Royal Conservatoire’s BA performance in British Sign Language and English is breaking new ground. As well as delivering dedicated professional performance education for students, we are providing the industry with a new generation of talented and diverse performers.”