Last night I went to see Macbeth at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon - it was my first experience of watching a British Sign Language interpreted performance. Having not booked the tickets myself, I wasn’t expecting this and hadn’t given it any thought. If asked in advance, I’d have assumed it would have worked a little like television – with a BSL interpreter off to the side of the action, not directly part of proceedings.
What the RSC delivered was entirely different from my expectation. The talented BSL interpreter became part of the performance. She moved with and around the other actors with ease, adding an extra dynamic to the scenes. Her presence enhanced the role of the Porter – part of his ‘team’ and adding strength to the occasional elements of comedy in an otherwise tragic play.
The production went a stage further though, with some actors signing some of their own lines, including the witches, played by children.
After the performance, many of the actors came on stage to take questions from the audience and it was clear that I wasn’t alone in thinking so highly of the way signing had been integrated. This was made all the more incredible when we were told the interpreter had only practised with the full complement of actors that day!
Those of us who work in communications, particularly with and for public sector organisations, are always mindful of the need to ensure our communications activity is accessible to as many people as possible. This includes making provision for those with disabilities and language barriers. What the RSC demonstrated so vividly last night, is that adopting a creative approach to making your story more accessible can enhance the experience for everyone.