Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Love and Dramaturgy: Solar Bear on Tour

Students from the UK’s only performance degree for deaf actors challenge perceptions and celebrate diversity in a dynamic new touring production 

They are the actors breaking down barriers in Scottish theatre. The first cohort of students from the UK’s only degree course for D/deaf* performers will challenge perceptions, celebrate diversity and promote inclusion when they tour Scotland next month in an exhilarating new production that blends British Sign Language (BSL) and English.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in association with pioneering Glasgow-based theatre company Solar Bear, present Love and Information by celebrated playwright, Caryl Churchill. It stars all ten students from the groundbreaking BA Performance in British Sign Language and English programme at Scotland’s national conservatoire, one of the world’s top three performing arts education institutions.

A series of short scenes about how we live in a world bombarded by information, Love and Information playfully explores different ways of making work for both D/deaf and hearing audiences. Some scenes will be in British Sign Language, some will be in English and others will be a mix of both. Captioning will be used extensively.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
CIARAN ALEXANDER STEWART: Of course it is. Performance is supposed to challenge people’s perception of the world around us, especially in this performance. It asks the questions ‘how much information is too much?’, ‘which information is more important?’ and ‘is love more important than having information?’. It allows the audience to leave the theatre thinking about themselves and their own lives.

CONNOR BRYSON: In this day and age, when things are moving so fast and people are using technology more, I would say it is more vital than ever before. People still need that connection, the love of humans and to be socially accepted, and the theatre is a great place to push boundaries and ask questions.

How did you become interested in making performance?

CONNOR BRYSON: Growing up in a small town, I always used to see beyond the trees, beyond the fields. My imagination was limitless, as was my desire for performing. It was just the idea of bringing entertainment to audiences and making them see themselves in characters.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

CIARAN ALEXANDER STEWART: As there are 50 scenes in this play, we all split up into different groups to play around with the characters and the settings. In the play, most of the time, it doesn’t say where we are or who we are. We as actors have to really use our imaginations of where, how and why those characters were there.

CONNOR BRYSON: For Love and Information, the director Jonathan Lloyd split us in to smaller groups to work on specific scenes. The interesting thing about Caryl Churchill’s writing is that this isn’t one story, all scenes make up the story. There are no character names or locations. Most of the situations are being worked out by the actors, working closely with the director. We think about potential situations and characters and we bring the show together that way.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

CIARAN ALEXANDER STEWART: I’ve never done a play like this before. Love and Information is by Caryl Churchill who is an interesting playwright. The play is a series of duologues and a couple of monologues. As actors, we have to really challenge ourselves. It’s a really fun process and I’m extremely lucky to be part of it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

CIARAN ALEXANDER STEWART: Hopefully all of the feelings. The scenes are funny, sad, sweet, simple, confusing and tragic. The play will rip your heart out and confuse you and make you go ‘aww’! I’ve never done a play that takes you on a massive rollercoaster as manic as this one. It will be really exciting for us to perform in and it’ll be interesting to hear what the thoughts are going through the audience’s heads.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

CIARAN ALEXANDER STEWART: We are using some things that will be accessible for both deaf and hearing audiences. There will be captions, there will be British Sign Language (BSL), there will be spoken English. I think this will enrich the audiences’ experiences. The BSL users will get some information where the spoken English audiences may not. 

The spoken English audiences will get some information whereas the BSL users won’t. Most of the time, both of the audiences will follow what’s going on the stage and I’m excited to showcase our skills. It’s too early to tell what we’re going to do as we are on week three of rehearsals. You’ll have to come along to our performances and find out for yourself!

CONNOR BRYSON: Making the show accessible for Deaf audiences was always our priority but, in saying that, we do try to make it accessible for hearing audiences too. We have to take captioning into consideration but not taking it too far away from the centre of the play. We put British Sign Language at the root of the play as well as spoken English. 

However I am still interested in how I can make it more accessible to audiences who are Deaf and blind as I believe that accessibility still has a way to go and it really annoys me when I see theatre companies using that word willy-nilly. Be clear who your show is accessible for.

The tour opens at The Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock on November 14 and will visit Edinburgh, Glasgow, Giffnock, Inverness and Banchory.

The Royal Conservatoire’s three-year BA Performance in British Sign Language and English degree, which launched in 2015, was developed in association with Solar Bear with input from a range of theatre, education and D/deaf professionals. It teaches students to be both actors and makers of work, exploring innovative ways of creating performance through British Sign Language and English. Students have fully-qualified BSL interpreters in class, on stage and in rehearsal.

Claire Lamont, Head of the BA Performance in British Sign Language and English programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Love and Information showcases the talents of our final year students and also gives an insight into the exciting creative possibilities that exist when working between British Sign Language and English. The work being produced with these students marks a defining moment in our theatre history and we look forward to the impact they will have in Scotland and beyond.

“The Royal Conservatoire’s BA Performance in British Sign Language and English is breaking new ground. As well as delivering dedicated professional performance education for students, we are providing the industry with a new generation of talented and diverse performers.”

Since 2002, Solar Bear has established itself as a force of change within the arts sector. It works with D/deaf performers, D/deaf theatre makers and young D/deaf people to create new and inclusive theatre.

Jonathan Lloyd, Creative Director of Solar Bear, said: “I’m really excited to be working with such an extraordinary talented bunch of actors, especially as their work will be seen much more widely around Scotland for the first time.”

To date, the BA Performance students have performed in an adaptation of Davey Anderson’s Scavengers, in a series of performances that they created for the On the Verge festival at the Citizens Theatre and they were part of New Dreams, the Shakespeare400 celebration with the University of Glasgow, Glasgow School of Art and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Students benefit from many professional and collaborative partnerships including the National Theatre of Scotland, Solar Bear and BBC.

The students will graduate in July 2018 and will showcase their work in Glasgow and London in March of next year. In order to further explore the opportunities that lie ahead for this group of artists and for the industry, the Now You See Me Symposium will be held in Glasgow on November 17. Co-produced by the Royal Conservatoire and Solar Bear, it will take place at Scottish Youth Theatre in the Merchant City. Tickets are free however limited places remain.

Applications are now open for the second cohort of D/deaf or hard of hearing performers for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Performance in British Sign Language and English programme, which will begin in September 2018.

Love and Information credits:
Directed by Jonathan Lloyd
Created and directed by Kally Lloyd-Jones
Written by Caryl Churchill
Design by Jess Brettle
Movement Director Kally Lloyd Jones
Lighting by Malcolm Rogan
A/V by Jamie Wardrop
Cast: Jamie Rea, Petre Dobre, Moira Ross, Connor Bryson, Craig Andrew, Ciaran Stewart, EJ Raymond, Danielle Melvin, Danni Wright, Bea Webster, Craig Andrew.
Voice and linguistic support: Rita McDade, Mel Drake

Tour dates and tickets:

· The Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Tuesday 14 November – 7.30pm

£13 /Conc £11


· Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Wednesday 15 November – 7.30pm


· Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow

Thursday 16 and Friday 17 November – 7.30pm



· Eastwood Park, Giffnock

Monday 20November – 7.30pm


· Eden Court, Inverness

Wednesday 22November – 7.30pm


· Woodend Barn, Banchory

Thursday 23 November – 7.30pm


· * Deaf has many meanings; Deaf relates to the cultural community, deaf relates to someone who medically identifies with hearing loss. People who use Sign Language, have cochlear implants and wear hearing aids may all identify as D/deaf.

For more information on the BA Performance in British Sign Language and English degree programme visit www.rcs.ac.uk/courses/ba-performance

· Tickets for the Now You See Me Symposium are free however places are limited. Visit www.rcs.ac.uk/boxoffice

· Scotland’s first National Action Plan on British Sign Language is due to be published in October to improve access to information and services for BSL users. Find out more here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/03/7548

About the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

· The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is one of the world’s top three performing arts education institutions (QS World Rankings 2017) and is ranked number one in Scotland for graduate employability, endorsing its status as a national and international centre of excellence for the performing arts.

· The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2017. During its existence, it has built on its roots as a national academy of music to become one of Europe’s most multi-disciplinary performing arts higher education institutions, offering specialised teaching across music, drama, dance, production, film and education. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is encouraging trans-disciplinary learning throughout its innovative curriculum.

· More than 1100 students are currently pursuing degrees at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland across its specialisms. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland works in partnership with the national companies, including the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera, BBC Scotland and Scottish Ballet, to provide students with the very best learning experiences the Scottish landscape has to offer.

· Based in the heart of Glasgow, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is also a busy performing arts venue; it hosts more than 500 public performances each year and issues around 50,000 tickets from its box office annually. Additionally, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland teaches over 3000 part-time learners every year through its Junior Conservatoire and Lifelong Learning departments.


About Solar Bear

· Since 2002, Solar Bear has established itself as a force of change within the arts sector. Solar Bear tells untold stories that engage with everyone – it believes theatre should be welcoming to all.

· Solar Bear’s exciting and daring artistic ambitions are built on ensuring accessible routes into the arts for the future. It creates opportunities for those who are marginalised or disaffected to explore, imagine and grow.

· Solar Bear creates work that is impactful, makes the invisible visible, and sparks debate and dialogue. To deliver this programme, it works in the most creative, urgent ways with D/deaf performers, D/deaf theatre makers and young D/deaf people.

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