Hagley Theatre Company adapts show to cater to deaf community video

Stuff.co.nz

The Hagley Theatre Company in Christchurch has adapted a show for the deaf community - and it could become a regular part of performances.

Cameron Mattox​ has always made the effort to share his passion for theatre with his hearing-impaired daughter.

Now the artistic director at Hagley Theatre Company has branched that out to the entire deaf community with a showing of the group's latest production, Don't Date Androids.

Two interpreters will sign the entire show to an audience from the van Asch Deaf Education Centre and wider community on Wednesday night.

Interpreter Liz Kay rehearses ahead of her performance for the deaf community on Wednesday.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Interpreter Liz Kay rehearses ahead of her performance for the deaf community on Wednesday.

It would be a first for the group and a rare occurrence in the South Island, Mattox said.

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"My daughter suffers from a bit of deafness and when we used to go to performances when she was a kid she'd love things that were physical, like Cirque du Soleil for example.

Don't Date Androids revolves around a court case centred on a man accused of murdering his android girlfriend, written ...
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Don't Date Androids revolves around a court case centred on a man accused of murdering his android girlfriend, written by Hagley Theatre Company alum Stefan Alderson.

"We got together and thought 'Let's give this a try', so on Wednesday night we're going to give it a rip, basically, and see how it goes."

The show was "a major risk" but, if successful, would become a regular event for the company's future productions.

Don't Date Androids follows the 2032 court case of Zac Thomas, who admits to strangling his android girlfriend. But the question remains whether he committed murder or defended himself against an out-of-control robot.

Defence counsel Ryan Farrell prepares ahead of Wednesday's show.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Defence counsel Ryan Farrell prepares ahead of Wednesday's show.

It was an interactive performance with a different ending based on the audience, as the jury, deciding whether or not Thomas was guilty. The show began on Friday and would continue until June 23.

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Adapting it for the deaf community would be "an experiment" that would draw on Mattox's experiences with his own daughter.

"It's a difficult concept because obviously it's very visual and very aural so we're trying to combine the both with signing.

"When she grew up it was a lot of the visual that worked well for her, like Mr Bean. But a lot of the aural performances, quite often she missed a lot of it, so [the show is] a personal thing as well."

One of the show's interpreters, Liz Kay, said "pretty much nothing" like this had previously been available for the deaf community in Christchurch.

Kay's parents were deaf so she had been signing her entire life before becoming an interpreter about 12 years ago. Her husband and three children were also deaf, she said.

"When I think about my own kids, I want them to be able to grow up and be able to come to a show if they want to come to a show."

She said she believed the audience would appreciate having the the opportunity to go to a show specifically catered for them.

"They feel like they're a contributing member to society, they can access things like everyone else can and that's really valuable."

Don't Date Androids is open to all audiences on Wednesday. More information at hagleytheatreco.co.nz

 - Stuff

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