As part of SRT’s efforts to make theatre accessible to the wider community, a signed performance was arranged for people who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired for Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar. Interpreters stood in a visible position to interpret what was being spoken by the performers at the same time it was being performed. We had a chat with Gophi Nathan, a deaf consultant to find out more about the impact of such a signed performance.
1) Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar had a signed performance. What was your experience like?
At first, I was apprehensive about the upcoming play of Shakespeare-Julius Caesar because there are many challenging factors of doing Shakespeare like language, set-up stage, costumes, etc. My main question on my mind was " would I get to enjoy or fall sleep throughout the show"? Also, the interpreters would need more time to translate Middle English into simple English sign language. But after watching the signed performance of Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar, I was pleasantly surprised with the show itself which was fabulous with uncanny multimedia, sound and lighting design. There were three interpreters who eagerly signed throughout the whole show duration of two and a half hours. My deaf peers really enjoyed too.
2) What are your views on the arts scene in Singapore in particularly for people with disability?
I am very happy that Singapore is finally opening the doors for people with disability to get involved with the art scenes. Like normal people, people with disability are more than capable in their abilities in what they want to do for the arts. It's becoming more apparent that theatres across the Singapore are investing time into training staff at the box office and front-of-house, to help them understand and promote audio-description, captioning and interpreting services so that they can provide the best service for disabled clients. Theatre production companies like Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) has been providing access training to staff in order to accompany and advance the services offered.
3) Do you think the arts scene in Singapore is opening up to the people with disability?
Yes. In my deaf community, I noticed that there are many deafies who are into theatre/plays/dance. As long as there is any VISUAL performance with interpretation provided, they are more than happy to attend the performance.
Here’s a short clip of the signed performance at Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar, 10 May
4) What more can be done for people who are deaf or with hearing impairment?
We could do with more visual shows for deafies who really enjoy watching all kinds of plays - drama, tragedy, comedy and many more. Multimedia, sound and lighting design are the most important visual part for the deaf people or people with hearing impairment. Interpreters who are expressive would be a cherry on the cake too. Another recommendation is to build more connections with deaf and disabled communities as a way to increase awareness of accessible theatre and arts events. And finally, we need better training for arts organisations, as well as guidelines on full “front door to stage door” access for deaf and disabled people.
5) What is your message to people who are deaf or with hearing impairment who feel they are excluded or disadvantaged from theatre shows?
I know many deaf people are more into “action-oriented movies than theatre plays. But I am encouraged that more theatre production companies, like SRT, are working hard to build cool multimedia, special effects and more to meet the deaf people's expectation.
Singapore Repertory Theatre supports access to theatre. We have signed performances for each of our production and are developing Relaxed performances for neuro-diver audiences.