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> > > Signdance Small Piece of Silence

Edited by Colin Hambrook

photo of actor wearing a trilby hat

Actor David Bower plays office worker Joe. Photo © Signdance Collective

Deaf actor David Bower stars in a radio broadcast, which for the first time ever, will be accompanied by a sign-theatre film of the play, available online.

Developed in partnership with Signdance Collective, the play was directed in Manchester by Susan Roberts. Catch it on BBC Radio 4 on 9 April 2010 at 2.15pm

A Small Piece of Silence is a love/detective story. Using sound, it attempts to give us a picture of the world of someone who can't hear. It examines the issues around how society deals with Deafness through the character of Joe, played by David Bower.

The sign-theatre film of the play features Bower and artistic consultant Isolte Avila. The BSL version will be available online with a text version of the script, allowing hearing impaired audiences to access the play more fully. The sign-theatre is a mix of Sign Supported English (SSE), British Sign Language (BSL) and international sign.

BBC Radio 4 and Signdance Collective are welcoming feedback and suggestions about the accessibility of using this process. They are hoping this initiative will be an ongoing process towards visualising radio - and thereby creating access to radio, for Deaf people.

A Small Piece of Silence started out in a very different way to most radio plays. After David Bower's striking performance as Quasimodo in Radio Four's production of The Hunchback of Notredame, the producer Susan Roberts suggested a contemporary play be written specially for him.

black and white photo of actor wearing check shirt and tie

Bower excelled in an earlier radio production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Photo © Signdance Collective

Katie Hims, who has an award-winning track record for writing radio plays, was brought on board. The lead character of Joe began to emerge after initial conversations with David about how a character who has been Deaf since birth, might interact with the hearing world.

In the play, Joe works in an council office. Every day he makes the same journey to work on the bus, seeing the same people. Then one day a young girl signs her name to him: A_N_G_E_L.

Joe has been working in the council's housing office for 17 years. Apart from one small promotion he has remained in the same job surrounded by the same people. Vernon has been there for the same amount of time. He eats Joe's food and talks too fast in the pub - but Joe goes along with it.

Into their world comes new office recruit Shelly who begins to fall for Joe, until Joe realises that she is having a relationship with the leader of the council. At the end of Shelly's first week there is a huge fire in a nearby block of flats. Joe learns that Angel was one of the people who has died.

And so Joe's life is changed forever as he embarks on a quest, turning detective to find out what has happened...

Liran Donin provides specially composed music and a soundscape that illustrates Joe's experience of the world as someone with tinnitus.

David Bower is one of the creative directors of Signdance Collective, the international dance music theatre company lead by Deaf and physically disabled dance theatre artists working alongside composer musicians.

The film can be accessed via the BBC Radio Four Drama website

David and Isolte from Signdance Collective are hoping that this will represent the beginning of a new area of access for the Deaf Community: "Radio has such a significant impact on the cultural landscape, and sign theatre could find an amazing platform in this medium. All thats required is that you write your response to the BBC and say that this is something that you want to see more often and hopefully it may help this to become a regular event."

Please leave your comments on the message board or send comments via Signdance Collective's website