29 March 2012
Deafinitely Theatre's play Gold Dust, plays at Soho Theatre, London from 28 - 31 March. Writing from his experience as a family man, Charlie Swinbourne recommends the companies latest excursion into themes that inform deaf culture
Family. It's a big theme in deaf life.
That sounds like a terrible introduction to a review doesn't it? I mean, family's a big theme for everyone. But there's something unique about deafness in the impact it has on communication.
Deaf people I grew up around often told me how they felt incredibly different from their hearing parents. Deafness meant they communicated differently, and as many of them learned sign language and became part of the deaf community, these differences became more pronounced.
In Gold Dust, a man goes into an attic room holding an urn containing his father. Suddenly his father pops up, and they go on a journey through his father's schooling, the war, meeting his wife and becoming a jeweller.
However, this is a reversal of the usual story. It's Sam, the hearing son, who seems disconnected, who does not understand or seem to relate to his father George, who is deaf and signs. Sam wonders if his father had wished he was deaf. There is frustration and anger here, but there is also warmth as they build a bridge between the differences that have divided them.
This is a journey through time, through stages of life and stories that make sense of identity. But towards the end, as this journey reaches it's conclusion, a new character arrives on stage and the emotional temperature of the play suddenly changes, as we are taken suddenly into a present that feels harsher and more raw than the relative comfort of the past.
The play is performed in sign language and spoken English. Cleverly, some parts of the father's dialogue - often very funny sections - are not translated, forcing hearing members of the audience to focus on the expression in the hands before them, and connect with sign language.
Directed by Paula Garfield and written by Andrew Muir, Gold Dust is inspired by true stories of deaf people in Birmingham, and there was a sense, while watching it, of seeing some of the stories, some of the history of the deaf world that I and many others have grown up with, finally being told on stage. The three actors, Ilan Dwek, Jim Fish and David Sands, are excellent.
The set, in Soho Theatre's smaller upstairs space, is intimate, and so is the play, featuring two separate one-on-one scenes.
There is something very compact about Gold Dust. It's about parenting, about deaf people and hearing people and how they relate to one another (or don't) and about how behaviour is passed on, without giving easy answers. It also has an incredibly beautiful ending.
Gold Dust is a real return to form for Deafinitely Theatre, and I recommend you go and see it.
Gold Dust has been produced by Deafinitely Theatre, in conjunction with Black Country Touring and the Deaf Cultural Centre. Go to the Soho Theatre website for times and dates
To find out more about Gold Dust, go to the Deafinitely Theatre website