In the week the country celebrates National British Sign Language Day, British Deaf-led theatre company Deafinitely Theatre will open their new childrenâ€™s production based on the book written by Kathryn Cave and illustrated by Chris Riddell.
Something Else opens at London’s Stratford Circus Arts Centre on Friday 20 & Saturday 21 March 2015. The production, performed in British Sign Language, will then tour to Birmingham Old Rep and the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton before embarking on a schools tour across the country. It will open the same week the country celebrates National British Sign Language Day on Wednesday 18 March.
Founded in 2002 and based in London, Deafinitely Theatre are a professional, independent, Deaf-led theatre company who aim to bridge the gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds by producing work accessible to all, and playing to them as one audience.
In 2013 the company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream played to packed houses as a part of Shakespeare’s Globe ‘s theatre season and their children’s production of Tyrannosaurus Drip thrilled audiences at Stratford Circus. Deafinitely Theatre’s productions have also previously played at Soho Theatre, the Tricycle and Southwark Playhouse.
Something Else tells the story of a small creature called 'Something Else' who lives his life always trying to fit in, but never really does. One day a stranger turns up on his doorstep wanting to become friends, but 'Something Else' turns him away because he’s different. Then, 'Something Else' realises what he’s done.
The production for ages 3-6 will be directed by Deafinitely Theatre’s Co-founder and Artistic Director, Paula Garfield. Garfield is an actor, director, workshop leader and presenter.
She has worked on a variety of television and film projects over the past seventeen years and set-up Deafinitely Theatre with Steven Webb and Kate Furby to nurture and showcase Deaf talent.
She has co-created and directed the majority of Deafinitely Theatre’s work including the first ever full-length Shakespeare production in British Sign Language (BSL), Love’s Labour’s Lost which was a part of Shakespeare’s Globe’s unprecedented Globe to Globe Festival in 2012.
Garfield said “I have two Deaf children and when they were very young I wanted to share my passion for theatre with them but unfortunately, as when I was young, there was very little opportunity for Deaf children to see signing on stage. This was one of the reasons I co-founded Deafinitely Theatre – to produce shows for both hearing and Deaf audiences.
I want families who only have one Deaf child or person in the family to have the opportunity to go to the theatre and enjoy the performance equally. It’s also good – and important – for children whether they are hearing or Deaf, to see professional Deaf actors perform and become their role models.
I wanted to adapt Something Else because I’ve always had an interest in identity. I grew up in a hearing environment and it took years for me to discover my Deaf identity. My experience is not unique, it’s very common and it’s still happening. Deaf children often feel excluded and they shouldn't - it’s a story which resonated with me.”
The cast of three are Jamal Ajala, Donna Mullings and Ian Street.
Born in Nigeria, Jamal Ajala came to England with his family when he was seven years old and joined Deafinitely Youth Theatre aged 16 for two years. After encouragement from the company, Ajala auditioned and was accepted into the National Youth Theatre. He was the only Deaf actor to audition in 5,000. He has worked and trained with the National Youth Theatre (August 2014), Chickenshed Theatre (2013-2014) and Deafinitely Youth Theatre (2013).
Donna Mullings has been acting for eleven years and has worked with both Deaf and integrated mainstream theatre companies. She has worked as an in-vision signer for production companies such as the Cartoon Network, ABC, ITV, MTV, Disney Channel and paramount. She has danced with Def Motion and performed at festivals including the Reims Clin d’Oeil Festival, Incloodu Festival and WoW Festival. She is an experienced children’s fairy-tale storyteller, having worked for companies such as BSLBT, MyDeafLife.Com, ITV and Cbeebies.
Her theatre credits include Pulse (Derby Theatre), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Deafinitely Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe), Baa Moo Yellow Dog (Half Moon Theatre), The Crane and Cinderella’s Sisters (Red Earth Theatre), Children of a Greater God, It is a Small World and The Vagina Monologues (Deafinitely Theatre) and Appointment with Death at the London Deaf Drama Group for which she won the Best Actor award.
Ian Street trained at East 15 Acting School, London and his recent credits include Threesixtys’ Peter Pan which premiered at Kensington Gardens and toured the USA. He played the lead role in Pinocchio (Polka Theatre), Office Party (Underbelly/Assembly Productions), Invisible Town (Hoipolloi/National Theatre Studio), The Bitches’ Ball (Penny Dreadful), Happy End (Wilton’s Music Hall) and The Little Prince (Edinburgh and Moscow).