*Waves* Hello you loverly Baz people, how are you? Were not sure about you but we feel as if we’ve been underground and emerged, blinking into the light in a sort of weird reverse hibernation...sorry we’ve just realised that brown bear analogy is a bit weird, but stick with us -we are still powered up Pac Man style (analogies coming thick and fast, duck out of the way!) after a fantastic week interrogating the ultimate tale of interrogation in our version of Franz Kafka’s ever relevant novel, The Trial.
How did it all come about, you ask? (oh yes, the audience participation is real) well, a year ago we staged an interpreted performance of our dreamplay at The Vaults - yes, that was a year ago! - and utilising a fantastic set of skills Katie, our interpreter, displayed, got cogs in our minds working. Sarah, our director and co-AD was electrified by the presence of the language, Katie’s interaction with our actors and the audience and how it seemed to be a play in itself. Our triad of ADs, Sarah, Catherine and Emma meet up regularly at one of our fave Baz places, Persephone Books in Lambs Conduit Street, The Southbank Centre or the little Cafe above Heals (top tip, Secret London fans!) and discussed our next project. It just so happened Catherine was reading The Trial - and that was it - through a meeting of Sarah’s desire to work with BSL and Kafka’s seminal classic, Baz’s official fourth project was founded.
There followed a year long process of funding, venue, auditions and discussion - which eventually led to a week’s worth of R&D in the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall, thanks to AD Holly Kendrick’s generosity. Here, with our fantastic actors Will, Cat, Mark, Jean and Catherine, the fab Sophie Wooley sitting in as consultant and a stream of fantastic interpreters all ready and willing to take chances, risks and faith in each other from the get go Between them, as writer and script editor respectively Sarah and Emma produced an avant-garde, typically Baz-like script - and then we promptly told our actors to sort of ignore it. Well not really, but from day one, almost the first morning we were improvising loosely from the script, hitting the ground running - something that was hard not to do with such a trusting and bold company in the room.
But first: coffee and opinions. Two of our favourite things. Also: eclairs and world peace but that’s by-the-by - as part of our preparations for the future production it seemed like a great time to offer a focus group, inviting D/deaf theatre goers, practitioners and actors to join us at Wiltons to share their experiences. Everybody came so willing to share what had worked and what didn’t, how theatre and culture generally has a long way to go to fully integrate D/deaf culture, what had worked and what didn’t, the specific requirements needed across the board- and helped us loads moving forward to produce a truly bilingual piece of important, and entertaining theatre. We were so grateful they were so open, specific and frank about needs and ways of presenting theatre to everyone regardless - and it set us up to think up a battle plan for the rest of the week - right up to the showing at the end of it.
The rehearsal process began in earnest, and we were immediately sure that this is the production we’ve been missing - in terms of our personal theatregoing experiences, and as a company making truly expressive and experimental theatre. It was a learning curve, and we were lucky enough to be educated along the way - for example,one of our fabulous actresses Jean was brilliantly informative on the intricacies of the language of BSL and the iterations thereof, and both she and Will, another actor in our company shared very important personal stories of growing up, the workplace, and clashing with bureaucracy. Of course, we all had a story of miscommunication, or injustices, as a company and creative team, going about our daily lives. Throughout the week it became increasingly clear Kafka has Nostradamus-like abilities to predict a future of dealing with employers, schools, hospitals and councils - all trapped in the barbed mire of Corporate Speak - where Jean cited an actual incident a medical registrar was reticent to even write the word ‘deaf’ to describe the visiting patient. However, we found our feet in our traditional ideas of status, identity and portraying truths more stark than ever before - often asking our actors to put themselves in difficult, sometimes uncomfortable situations to better show the current and certainly historical ineptitude society and authority has treated what it deems a ‘problem’.
A big topic at the group was the use of interpreters and/or captions - both equally helpful as they were problematic. We decided, in the spirit of experiment, to integrate our fab interpreters Katie and Jo in some scenes, taking them out of others, even asking our hearing members of the audience to close their eyes briefly so the D/deaf audience knew that the scene would be played with all actors ‘voices off’ - so there was no sound whatsoever. On top of this, our epic producer extraordinaire Liz utilised her words per minute to transcribe the action on her laptop, to be read over her shoulder - so we made full use and tried out different techniques for providing information. Afterwards, we held an impromptu feedback session - and we are so grateful to those who came to stay and explain that their laughter was not only by being entertained but also in recognition, what was clear, what wasn’t - once again showing how versatile and fantastic our audience was in coming with us on our risks and entering into our experiment with an open mind.
Ahhh. We’re feeling all loved out now - and so keen to show you all what we’ve been up to!
Until next time friends, with videos and pics galore, we like to keep the Bazlings informed!