Posted on 29 May 2019
Coming next month on Wednesday 12 June at 7:30pm is the incredible cratively captioned and BSL inclusive Sirens! This shows follows the well known tale of three Greek women defying the want of Zeus who are subsequently cursed with a deadly voice and the Sirens are born. But this re-telling takes a different route than most, when they find out the truth about their curse, they are a little bit more than "tweaked", they find themselves catapulted to Hastings beach in 2019 with one mission: rewrite history.
Using breathtaking visual storytelling, stunning projections and a lot of feathers, Zoo Co's award winning show Sirens sticks two fingers up at gender expectations and just as importantly, at how theatre is written and adapted to allow everyone - they mean everyone - to enjoy their shows without struggling.
Cornerstone have been lucky enough to secure an interview with Zoo Co producer Rosalind to ask her some questions about the accessible element of the show - that is as close to our heart's here at Cornerstone as it is to them!
Why is Sirens an accessible show?
As a company we tour relaxed performances as standard model which means you can get up move around, leave and come back, do whatever you need to do and the show will stay exactly the same. Sirens is accessible to d/Deaf and hearing audiences as it is creatively captioned throughout and has integrated British Sign Language.
We wanted to stop playing lip service to making accessible theatre and wanted to show that a company of our scale and size could do it. Access has always been at the very core of our company and we want to prove that mainstream theatre like us can and should be accessible.
When we knew we were making show about the greek myth of the Sirens, we discovered that often narratives get left out of history and there hadn’t been a story (in our view) about the effect of the Sirens meeting someone who couldn’t hear their voices and we thought that was interesting.
How important is accessibility to Zoo Co and your work?
It’s vital. With every show we create we aim to make innovative, interesting accessible work because we believe that theatre is at its best when everyone has an equal seat at the table. We want to prove that if a company of our size can do it then every theatre company and venue should be putting it at the forefront of their work too.
How does this show differ from other ‘accessible’ shows?
From our very first show we’ve always had relaxed performances within our model but this is the first time we’ve trained our cast and creative team in a skill that means we could now ourselves create a show for d/Deaf audiences going forward. Before the start of rehearsals we trained the whole team cast and creatives in deaf awareness and British sign language so that on day one communication channels were open. We also had a BSL interpreter with us in rehearsals.
From our experience often accessible shows don’t dare to deal with big issues that sit alongside accessibility. And rather than having an interpreter on stage with us, we wanted to integrate it into the story so that it was an important aspect of our show.
How did the d/Deaf storyline come about in the writing/development process?
All our shows start with the core members of our company in research and development and when we first came up with the concept of the show there wasn’t a d/Deaf character or storyline. However as we continued to talk about the storyline, we realised this was a huge omission. We wanted to know what the story might be if these three women with deadly voices finally found a man they could talk to. And we went from there!
What has the response been like from the d/Deaf theatre community?
We’ve had some amazing feedback from our d/Deaf audiences and they’ve specifically enjoyed the integration of English, BSL and creative captions. This show is more about people meeting each other in circumstances they find themselves in, whether they be a deaf man or an ancient Grecian Siren on Hastings beach!
Is this a step in a new direction for Zoo Co?
Yes, since we made Sirens last year we have gone on to make another show that includes a d/Deaf cast member and is inclusive of d/Deaf audiences. Sirens has proved to us the possibility of creating theatre for everyone even when you’re on a tight budget!
What have you/Zoo Co learnt from the process of making this show accessible for any audience?
We’ve learnt that it takes commitment but that it’s completely possible for company of our size to do it and that it makes our work better for doing so.