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Everyday Review

May 25, 2022

In British Sign Language, the sign for a witch is fingers held above your nose, moved down in an elongated curve to draw a beak. But at a gathering for the new moon – a signifier of fresh hope – our four performers create a new sign, one that rids the term of its ugly, prejudiced stereotypes. With a thumb wiped back and forth over a forehead, their one symbolises wisdom.

Marking the 20th anniversary of Deafinitely Theatre, which produces work for deaf and hearing audiences, this show is inspired by the horrific statistics about the rise of domestic abuse during lockdown. Made up of a set of raw, frank stories detailing a variety of domestic and sexual abuse faced by deaf women and non-binary people, Everyday uses the idea of spiritual ritual as a tool for healing.

Sign and speech are blended evocatively to provide monologues possessing extraordinary dynamism. We see how abuse sneaks up on a person and traps them. We see, too, how being deaf adds a further layer of vulnerability. All are real stories as told to the director, Paula Garfield, and performed emotively by actors who speak the pain as if it is their own.

The atmosphere created is soft and supportive, but if you’ve experienced sexual assault, take care; Pan’s (Bea Webster) forceful performance of repeated abuse from a family member sucks the air out of the room.

Our performers are presented as witches, their bubbling cauldron replaced with a pot of tea, their homely set evocative of a shelter for survivors. The connection between these witchy rituals and the tales they tell is not fully fleshed out, feeling a little like two good ideas squashed together, but it does create a framework of a community in which these storytellers can seek safety.

While Everyday’s topic is heavy, the overwhelming feeling is one of tenderness. The performers are gentle with each other, and throughout, the dread is interspersed with laughter. New Diorama host this show impeccably, with interpreters at the bar to ensure the entire space is inclusive. In this simple but powerfully told collection of real experiences, Deafinitely Theatre demonstrates the power of sign language to tell a story that can be hard to share.

At New Diorama theatre, London, until 11 June; then touring until 25 June.

If you are experiencing abuse, in the UK you can call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org

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