Deaf Theatre: The Birthday of the Infanta by Solar Bear

Last weekend, the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston featured the Solar Bear, the Deaf Youth Theatre from Scotland and we thought it was great! The Birthday of The Infanta is a story of one sad princess, one pompous party and one broken heart. This creative performance by young and talented deaf and hearing actors is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde. It was princess Infanta’s birthday and everybody gathered in the palace to give her presents and amuse her with tricks and shows. Nevertheless, she could not find entertainment neither in bullfighters nor dancers’s performances. Her uncle devoted himself to keep the bored princess entertained, so he travelled the world to find something to surprise her. On his way he met a wild boy, who could do an impressive choreography of jumps. He invited him to the palace and Infanta was finally happy! The boy had fallen in love with her but when he saw a reflection of his face in the mirror for the first time, he was in great sorrow as he thought princess could never love him and his heart broke.

The Birthday of the Infanta

The performance was a mixture of pantomime, spoken word and sign language with live music – romantic singing and Spanish-influenced rhythms and vibrations that were accessible to a deaf audience. The authenticity of young actors and stirring sounds created a truly charming, magical and beautiful atmosphere, full of invisible butterflies and hand-shaped birds. The audience was drifting with the actors from the princess’ s palace to the wild forests and deep waters to finally confront the reality.

The Birthday of the Infanta

The lack of the happy ending is like an alert that reminds us how important it is for every young person to be accepted just as they are and that rejection essentially damages a persons perception of their identity. We think that sign language is not only a great language but it is art in motion as it takes meaning and visual form.  This is a great way to support both deaf and hearing teenagers to explore and learn from each other and continue to raise awareness on the #deafexperience.

Interview with David Hall – ”the Deaf Man from Norwich”

A couple of weeks ago, one news story really hit the Lingoing team. Eastern Daily Press appealed for a BSL interpreter for the “Deaf Man From Norwich” who could not find an interpreter for his father’s funeral. This truly had an impact on us, as here in Lingoing we believe that every deaf person should always have an interpreter when they need one, especially with such a personal event. We contacted David Hall to find out whether or not he was able to have access at his dad’s funeral and we learnt about his story. Although full of sadness, it also had a powerful impact on us to learn how a person’s selflessness allowed for another person’s closure. We would like you to read it and share to raise awareness on the deaf experience.

Ovais: Could you tell us what happened when the article went viral? What kind of responses and support did you get from the community?

David Hall: When my father died of lymphoma cancer on 1st June, my mother and me were heartbroken. Two days later we contacted the agency that provides sign language interpreters in our local area of Norwich and asked them to find an interpreter for my dad’s funeral. I waited 8 days for them to get back to me! The day before the funeral they called us up. My mother spoke on the phone with them. She hung up the phone and started crying. I kept on asking her ‘’what happened’’? But she couldn’t stop crying. It made me cry too, it was very emotional. Finally she was able to tell me that they could not find an interpreter for the funeral. I could not believe it! I thought: “The funeral is tomorrow!” We were so frustrated that we didn’t know what to do! We decided to approach the local newspaper and told them about the situation we were in. That was the best idea – the article showed up immediately on the Internet, and it went viral very quickly! It spread on Facebook and people started to talk about it. One interpreter from London, a lady called Gemma, contacted us and she travelled the whole way up to Norwich on the night before the funeral. She arrived very late at night and I met with her to brief her for the ceremony.

Ovais: The fact that you had an interpreter for your dad’s funeral, what did it mean to you?

David Hall from Norwich

David Hall: Oh, it was wonderful! It was such a relief! It took the weight of my shoulders… I finally could say goodbye to my father with peace in my heart. The fact that the interpreter was there made such a huge difference. The vicar was standing too far away from me for me to be able to lipread what she was saying. It would be impossible for me to be part of the ceremony. Thanks to Gemma being there I could look at her and read the signs. The vicar read out loud about my father’s upbringing and his life story – some of the details I did not know before. It was written by my mother and it was beautiful that the interpreter could sign it for me. I was very grateful, the ceremony felt complete. It really meant a lot to my mother and me, and I am sure it was important for my dad too. After the funeral, I expressed my gratitude to Gemma and I asked for her fee for the service. I was so surprised she did not want to accept the payment, she did not even want me to reimburse her travel fare! She said ‘’I did it voluntary, that’s from the kindness of my heart’’, but I did not want to hear about it, so she told me to give the money to the charity instead. The same day, I transferred £200 to the charity that supports people affected by lymphoma cancer.

Ovais: What would be your message to hearing people who wouldn’t really understand the situation you were in?

David Hall: It is very sad that people do not understand how important it is for a son to attend his father’s funeral. It is so hard for a child to lose their parent, and for a deaf person not to be able to participate in the funeral ceremony would just add to the suffering that they’re already going through. I wish it never to happen again to any family. Deaf people should always be able to have an interpreter for emergency situations. A funeral is so important. It is just once in a lifetime when you can say goodbye to the ones you loved once they have gone.

If there has been a death of an immediate family member and you need support, please get in touch with us. We’ll do our best to help you find an interpreter!