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FringeReview Scotland 2015

Low Down

Swedish inclusive theatre company, Tyst were in Glasgow for Solar Bear’s and the Citizen’s festival of all things non hearing – Progression 2015. They gave an insight into their work by presenting their methodology as well as a short show case of the work that they had prepared with Royal Conservatoire of Scotland actors and Deaf Youth Theatre performers.


Firstly turning up a whole 7 minutes late can be seen as unforgivable but the website did say half seven and I thought we were 23 minutes early! We were fortunate that we had only missed a few workshop games that involved the audience and helped us to understand the approach of Tyst Theatre Company.

The games allowed the audience to become part of the story of the evening and experience what the rest of the cast, now onstage, had managed to share during their long day together. This was therefore less a show and more of a proposed next stage of the exploration of their work. Wonderland had been toured throughout Europe with differing results because it meets a new cast, new participants and exciting ideas.

To comprehend the work on offer required a degree of engagement as it was not a regular performance where the lights went down, you got entertained and when the lights went back up you felt enriched. Here the lights stayed up at the beginning, you got stuck in, had things explained and got to understand what was going on before the lights went down, you got a bit of performance before the lights went back up again and then had further time for discussion and reflection.

As a window on their methodology this was as interesting as it was illuminating. There was very little new to me but there was a calmness and focus that is hard to maintain, never mind bring together in one day. The performance of the sections inspired by Alice in Wonderland had a wonderful togetherness. From the time motif to the one about power, which was my favourite, there were enough nuggets to feel you could build a massive performance were they given more time. During this segment we had the theatre arts you would associate with performance and they had all of the professionalism that you would expect from both the Citz and Solar Bear as co hosts.

This was all the more remarkable because the cast were strangers to each other at the beginning of the day, but by the end of it both the hearing students of RCS and those who are less hearing were like a cast; fiercely proud and protective of their time spent together. With the new acting degree in BSL/English happening at the RCS this is bound to become even more exciting.

The one discordant note that I felt during the evening was the use of the term non hearing. Whilst I understand how important language is, it needs to evolve and not be imposed. I have had a number of wide ranging discussions with people who have disabilities over the years about what they wished to be called. It became clear to me both anecdotally and with a number of surveys that the labels were less important than the actions of those around them. To witness both deaf and non deaf people try their hardest not to offend each other and gather the kudos associated of being in the know was uncomfortable.

That having been said, it should be acknowledged that events like this one are highly important in keeping the debate alive and allowing people the opportunity to test their resolve. The debate over language is massively important and when you see work of this quality you realise that quality comes with no barriers. Tyst Theatre gave us that quality and it would be good to see their work in a full length performance piece with actors and non actors in the future.