In 2003, Half Moon launched a programme of fully integrated bilingual shows for young children in English and British Sign Language. Six plays were produced which uniquely combined the two languages, placing both English (a verbal language) and British Sign Language (a visual language) on an equal status. The dialogue between the actors on stage – some Deaf, some hearing – was an exchange like any conversation – the difference lay in the need to ensure that the audience – some Deaf, some hearing – could understand or engage with the full conversation taking place. The result was a fully inclusive experience for Deaf and hearing audiences alike.
For a full description of this process and an example of a script presented in this format, see downloads on this page.
This was the second time in the company’s history that bi-lingualism was explored, the first was in the 1980s/1990s when plays were presented in English and Sylheti-Bengali.
Chris Elwell has been the Director of Half Moon Theatre on White Horse Road since 1997. He talks about the impetus for and aesthetic of creating bilingual work in British Sign Language and English.