Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios: If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

I was recently reminded what a powerful tool social media is. A short while ago I saw that there was going to be a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios, as part of their ‘Trafalgar Transformed’ season produced by Jamie Lloyd. I immediately checked on STAGETEXT’s website to see if there was going to be a captioned performance, but was disappointed to see that it was not listed.

Richard III header

So I tweeted Jamie Lloyd, the Trafalgar Studios and STAGETEXT directly using hashtags about ♯accessibility and ♯inclusion to ask if there was going to be a captioned performance and waited for their response. Imagine my surprise when Jamie Lloyd himself tweeted me back saying that all their productions in the season would definitely be captioned. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy! I immediately let my deaf friends know and several of them told me they wanted to come along too.

The next day I rushed down to the Box Office and bought tickets for my wife and a few of my deaf friends. I was really excited and tweeted the photo of me with the tickets at the Box Office.  I was really excited about it.

Richard III tweet

We finally went to see it together last Monday night. Since it was a cold, wet and miserable Bank Holiday Monday, I was glad to leave the house in the early evening to meet up with my friends for a Mexican meal in town before heading off to the theatre.

When we arrived there, it was completely full. Despite the fact that it was a very rainy Monday evening, it looked like every ticket had been sold. Tickets are only £15 for everyone on Monday nights, which Jamie Lloyd has done to make his productions accessible to everyone, particularly young people, who may not have ever seen Shakespeare before. I think this is an excellent idea.

When we sat down, I noticed a few people around us who I knew, so we all said hello. It was great to see some friendly faces and have a chat before the start. Our seats were not far from the stage with a great view of the STAGETEXT caption unit above the stage. There were rows of people sitting on the other side just behind the stage too. I love the cosy, informal atmosphere of the Trafalgar Studios and the young audience, which is why it is my favourite theatre in London.

It was immediately obvious that this was going to be a very different, modern take on Richard III. The stage set was designed like a late 1970s office, complete with old-fashioned typewriters, phones, a fish tank, TV sets and fax machines. Apparently this was inspired by the famous opening line of the play spoken by Richard “Now is the winter of our discontent”, which conjured up images of the winter of discontent in Britain in 1979, which saw mass strikes, three-day weeks and general public unrest.

Richard III_office

Since I’ve only recently had my cochlear implant switched on and have never tried to use a hearing loop since then, I thought I’d try it out to see if it would work, so I picked one up in the foyer beforehand. I was amazed to find that I didn’t even need to use the loop because I could hear the actors’ voices on stage and could follow what they were saying clearly. It was a totally new experience for me being able to hear the dialogue being spoken and follow the captions at the same time.

This performance was very gory, violent and sadistic. Watching the numerous murder scenes was often uncomfortable, but necessary, to understand the evil nature of the hunch-backed main character, Richard, and his relentless determination to keep torturing and murdering people, including his own wife and family, in order to achieve the ultimate prize of being King of England. It was based on the real-life King Richard III, who allegedly brutally murdered the two boy princes in the Tower of London.

Richard III - Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil - Photo Marc Brenner.jpg

Martin Freeman, who played Richard, was excellent. He limped around the stage like an evil, power-crazed tyrant. He reminded me of a modern-day dictator such as Stalin, Franco or Hitler. In one murder scene where he was killing his wife Anne by strangling her in cold blood with a phone cord across the desk, I looked at my wife, who was wincing and watching the scene with her hand covering her face. There really were some disturbing and gruesome scenes, but Martin Freeman managed to convey the psychopathic side of Richard’s character with his self-satisfied wit really well.

Gina McKee, who plays Queen Elizabeth, also stood out for me as delivering a great performance. She played the mother of the two young princes killed in the Tower. In one particularly harrowing scene, Richard had her taped to a chair while she was desperately pleading with him not to seduce her only surviving daughter. It is a very moving and disturbing scene.

Richard III_Gina McKee

Apart from the great acting, I thought that the lighting and special effects also worked really well and added to the drama. In one gruesome murder scene the creaky lift doors to the sides of the stage kept opening and closing at the crucial moment, adding to the disturbing sense of shock. Lights were also turned on and off and flickered around the stage throughout the play.

I thought it was a great performance and I’m so pleased that Martin Freeman decided to stay in London that night to play the part of Richard III instead of going to the Emmy award ceremony in the States to collect his award. We all had a great night and I can’t wait to go to the next captioned production at the Trafalgar. A big thanks to Jamie Lloyd and STAGETEXT! It just goes to show that if you don’t ask for things, you don’t get!

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Rediscovering sound – like meeting up with an old friend

Richard Turner

Richard CI_beer

After six weeks of anxiously waiting after my cochlear implant operation and hoping so much that it was going to work, I finally had my switch-on last week.

So much has happened in those last six weeks that I don’t really know where to begin to tell you. I thought it would be very difficult and very isolating trying to adjust to living in a world of total silence and tinnitus again. I’m not going to lie to you. It has not been easy and I have got through watching the first three subtitled series of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD followed by the complete series of ‘House of Cards’ while recovering at home. I can highly recommend both of them, by the way. But it wasn’t half as scary or as isolating as when I first lost my hearing four years ago.

The difference this time is that I…

View original post 1,145 more words

Rediscovering sound – like meeting up with an old friend

Richard CI_beer

After six weeks of anxiously waiting after my cochlear implant operation and hoping so much that it was going to work, I finally had my switch-on last week.

So much has happened in those last six weeks that I don’t really know where to begin to tell you. I thought it would be very difficult and very isolating trying to adjust to living in a world of total silence and tinnitus again. I’m not going to lie to you. It has not been easy and I have got through watching the first three subtitled series of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD followed by the complete series of ‘House of Cards’ while recovering at home. I can highly recommend both of them, by the way. But it wasn’t half as scary or as isolating as when I first lost my hearing four years ago.

The difference this time is that I have learned to live with it and adapt to my deafness. In fact, it has changed me a lot as a person and how I see the world. But even more importantly, in the last few years, I have gained a whole new network of friends, who have provided me with the emotional support, help and guidance I have needed to keep me going in some pretty tough times.

I am especially grateful for all also the support and kindness shown by my fellow volunteers and friends from Action on Hearing Loss and other deaf charities I’m involved in.

It is wonderful that even when I have not been able to hear anything and have struggled to communicate with my wife and other people on a daily basis I have been able to meet up with my fantastic friends and have been to some amazing events recently. I have not had to struggle to communicate with them and they have been very kind and patient with me. We all have shared experiences of living with hearing loss and they know how to adapt their communication tactics with me.

So how was the switch-on and how has it been over the last few days since then? Well the only word I can use to describe it is “Amazing!” When the audiology technician first switched my cochlear implant on and I could hear the beeps as she was testing what I could hear, I couldn’t believe it. I just thought “Wow!” Immediately I could hear the sounds around me really clearly.

At first the technician asked me if I could hear her voice and I replied that I could. It was very clear. Then I heard water running from the tap in her office and even the ticking of the clock on the wall. These were sounds that I hadn’t heard in years as I couldn’t hear that well even when I wore my hearing aid until fairly recently. It was crystal clear. The difference in the quality of the sound I can hear now and the sound I heard from my hearing aid is huge. I hadn’t expected it to sound this amazing. It is truly life-changing!

Over the last few days it has been wonderful just to have a normal conversation with my wife without struggling to lipread her and follow what she’s saying. On that first evening after my switch-on I sat in the garden with my wife and my dad chatting about what an amazing day it had been. The next day I rang my mother and had a chat with her on the phone. Even though I still struggled to hear her as I think it will take time to learn to re-adjust to it, she was over the moon just to hear my voice! It was the first time I’d been able to speak to her on the phone in over three years.

Every day since then I have just been enjoying being able to hear again and rediscovering sound I thought I’d lost a long time ago. It’s like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time and rediscovering the things you have in common and what you can remember about them. I am constantly surprised and amazed at the sounds I remember from before and can suddenly hear so clearly again.

Yesterday, for instance, I heard a sound I didn’t recognise. It was the sound of my dog Jake’s paws as he walked across the laminate floor in the lounge. I hadn’t heard that sound for a long time and I was surprised by it. Later I sat outside in the sunshine and for the first time I could hear the sound of my cat’s bell on his collar as he ran down the garden to chase the birds away.

It’s everyday sounds that I now find truly amazing. Words cannot describe how happy I feel just to be able to hear them again after such a long time. I put on a CD in my car this morning to find out what it would sound like. I have always loved music but I haven’t been able to listen to it for several years now. I listened to an Oasis song which I’ve always loved called ‘Live Forever’. It didn’t sound the same as I remembered it but because I knew the words of the song so well from memory, I could listen to it and appreciate it. I never thought I would ever be able to hear music again.

Richard's CI blog_Oasis 2

I feel like I have come a long way since I first started to lose my hearing. I have met some incredibly inspirational people on my journey and I am now starting to learn to adapt to being able to hear sounds again with my new cochlear implant. It will take a lot more time to get used to it and to rediscover sounds I thought I had lost a long time ago.

I have also had a few teething problems with it since yesterday, which has been frustrating, but I think like since it is completely new to me, it will take time for me to get used to using this technology. I posted a question today about why my new cochlear implant suddenly didn’t seem to be working on the AB Users Forum on Facebook and I got lots of helpful advice from fellow users, which reassured me a lot that the problem could be fixed. Thanks very much to those people on the forum. It helped me a lot.

At the end of the day, though, I am still a deaf person, caught between the hearing and the deaf worlds, being both amazed and frustrated at both worlds with equal measure. I think underneath it all we are all human beings with similar hopes, dreams, problems and anxieties. We are not all that different at the end of the day. All I know is that right now I am just enjoying rediscovering being able to hear again.