review excerpt by Eric Mayer LSU @ No Passport Conference 2014 Louisiana State University
much-anticipated performance of Carthage/Cartagena,
written by Caridad Svich and developed with the Signdance Collective
International played to a packed audience. The text of
is a series of multi-lingual letter-song-poems connected by themes of
displacement, exile, and human trafficking. This verse play
dramatizes moments of “desterrar,” or being ripped away from
homeland and finding oneself in a foreign land. The piece stages the
violent origins of diaspora, a recurrent topic raised throughout the
. The verse of Carthage/Cartagena
enacts its diasporic imagination in its rendering of voices of
individuals displaced by wars, human trafficking, and acts of
violence. As a previous reviewer had pointed out, the play on
words within Carta-ajena,
mean letter from afar, as well as a letter written in a foreign
language. These “letters from afar” are not only written
from spaces of dislocation, but also speak from the borderlands of
the real, a space beyond representation and language, encircling the
edges of trauma. The text of Carthage/Cartagena
draws on multiple languages, English, Spanish, Italian, BSL and ASL
as a strategy to approach this “unspeakable” space of trauma
through the disconnected space between languages, and the gap between
meanings lost in translation.
SDCI was the perfect company to interpret the piece because they move
between so many registers of language: spoken, sung, and embodied in
their specific fusion of dance and sign. Images of homeland, like a
lemon tree, a cake, or a spinning top, were invoked as the final
vestiges of subjectivity from the edges of the traumatic experience.
The SDCI’s approach was to interpret the loss of homeland as the
structural loss of innocence. Coming of age in the blown-out
wasteland of Carthage/Cartagena
means grappling with the shock of total loss, a retracing of the
missing pieces of self, and transformation in a state of absolute
exile. The ritual structure of the choreography, a
spiraling transcendental meditation, made room for the co-presence of
these lost voices—the casualties of violent acts of displacement—as
they were re-imagined in performance. Carthage/Cartagena
made for an intense and riveting end to this 8th
annual meeting of the NoPassport Theatre Alliance.
Bad Elvis 26 March 2014
Signdance Collective International with the life-size Bad Elvis puppet
Salford University and The BBC hosted Signdance
Collective's performance of Bad Elvis on 21st March. Peter Street went
along to see the companies brand of sign-musical theatre at its very
"Absolutely superb, not long enough" said the Mayor Of Salford. How
right he was, Bad Elvis was an hour-long tour de force. This was a
unique theatre production thanks to director Sue Roberts and writer
Bad Elvis was no cheesy impersonation of Elvis Presley, but more a
kind of surreal tribute to him which really hit the spot. David Bower
was breath-taking in his role as Aiden. He signed and spoke while
dancing in a light blue zoot suit.
I was thinking it couldn’t get better that was until Isolte Avila
‘mum’ belted out “All Shook Up.” And from then on every time she
finished another song the audience showed the wonder of it all by
clapping and more clapping. I’ve seen various so-called singers try
their vocal chords on this difficult song: she left them all standing.
That’s how fabulous as it was, not only, but then the players of Bad
Elvis came to the edge of the floor and invited us to take part with
four basic signs of All Shook Up with BSL.
David’s dance partner Francesca Osimani who played Snow White lifted
the play another notch when she danced and signed alongside him. I was
worried about Francesca fitting in with deaf and disabled actors. But
then watching her I doubt if anyone could have performed, signed and
danced and worked the musical better than she did.
The one great feature of this production you kept thinking with surely it can't get better, but it did.
Hearns Sebuado - the landlord and brother rocked and rolled with his
dance partner the life size puppet of Elvis’s the ‘King’ who was dressed
in the white suit we have all come to love and adore. That puppet -
sorry Elvis wouldn’t have been Elvis without out the suit. Hearns took
us through every emotion first by bringing laughter tears when he
introduced us to his Elvis.
Then he laughed us more when he danced and jived around with this
very own Elvis while fastened to his legs. Superb. We were laughing and
singing along with it all. People around me were tapping their feet and
then suddenly the King just died in front of us and Hearns caressed him.
As if it was some real person there on his knee, dying. It was so
convincing it was then just then for a few seconds I remembered where I
was on that tragic day of 1977.
You would be hard pushed to see anything as good as Bad Elvis. It was faultless. DAO
No Passport theatre conference at New York University , Gallatin on March 1,
2013 in New York City
Side of the Coin as conceived of and presented by UK
Signdance Collective International is a hypnotic and surprising
dance-theatre-sign language and live music experience.
movement against the ferocious, adrenaline-charged music is framed
around motifs that suggest
saluting and other aspects of military drills performed with a sly
wink to commedia dell’arte
and shape-body improvisations. A mysterious poetic, male figure in
tattered clothing and unkempt, unruly hair (played by co-founder
David Bower) becomes
the soloist against a chorusof women. Recalling ancient Greek theatre
with its solo and
frames, the Poet embodies the spirit of freedom, Dionysian play, and
martyrdom. The performance allows the soloist to represent the
un-governable energy of art itself, railing and raging against
tyrannical forces outside his control.
gestural imagery (in BSL) in this later section is anchored in
repetitive gestures that
to become smaller and smaller, sputtering and more sputtering against
an inner flame. Beautiful
behold. TheOther Side of the Coin, in thirty minutes, manages to
create a genuine, unique
world that lingers long in the mind after the performance is over.
The commitment of the
to the work, the distinctiveness of the vision of the piece, the
talent of all of the company, and
clear compassion and humanity evident in this abstracted, emotional,
Lorca-inspired dream is
Hunchback Of Notre Dame 2008 BBC Radio4
“When you first hear him, halting, lisping and disturbingly but powerfully slow, pronouncing “sinners” as “thinnerth”, you wonder about his mental state. Quickly, you realise that it is fine, as is Quasimodo’s; that Quasimodo makes up with poetic insight, faith and honour what he lacks in beauty; that the true deformity in the story is moral, not physical.”
Paul Donovan, The Sunday TImes 30 November 2008
It isn’t, though,just his voice that made the work so compelling, but the sensitivity of his portrayal, which immediately rescued the tale of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', from its ‘Disneyfication’ to Victor Hugo’s original imagining as a story about social strife and revolution.
“There is a poetry in the writing which moves with a pace, unique to deaf syntax, which typically places the object of the sentence before the action. David Bower, deaf performer and artistic director of Signdance Collective, plays Quasimodo with an emotional depth and honesty that gives a new insight into this archetypal figure”
Colin Hambrook from a review on DisabilityArtsOnline
Signdance Collective’s new show is extraordinarily original and enthralling!
Whats On Stage In London 2010
'I have just recently returned from seeing Signdance Collective's performance of Half a Penny. The energy and passion of the performers is so strong it reaches out, grabs you and doesn't let go. Ripped up political speeches, oppression, fear and ofcourse "confidence" with jabs of humour thrown in...a very thought evoking piece and beautifully performed.
Emma Shaw ***** 2012
Dear SDC ,What can I say ? I thought last night was amazing ..It made me laugh, cry, think, ..dance even.I had a wonderful evening. The amazing work you are doing is unique and extremely important. I caught my train and got home at midnight with a warm glowfrom your show.
Sue Roberts - Executive Producer BBC Drama North & now SDC's Artistic Patron
(New Gold 2012) in turns funny, strange and exciting - the mix of physical theatre, sign, dance and comedy challenged the audience and was unlike anything I have seen before. The performance is a fusion of different sign languages and speech, as well as music - making for a truly multi-lingual experience. In the end, the race for 'gold' becomes something else - perhaps it looks towards a society where everyone feels accepted - a society that isn't so focused on competition and 'winning' money, gold and fame. Lizzie Ward DAO and Remote Goat *****
.... The work – because it is great has “mass” appeal speaks for itself and that is what is fantastic
Esther Appleyard director ACCENTUATE London 2012
Artistic director David Bower may be familiar to moviegoers as Hugh Grant’s deaf, and wonderfully honest, brother in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and with this company he is no less honest, in fact almost ruthlessly so. What he sets out to achieve in the most compelling of these four pieces is an expression of the inner journey he had to make in order to reconcile himself to “the Noise” - the tinnitus he has suffered since 1986 following an Indie gig. In this uncompromising performance he seems to become the sounds in his own head at the same time as trying to cast them out. It is as if a devil has taken root behind his eyes and he is determined not to be driven mad. Unforgettable. Providing a dizzying background to this is some excellent live rock music (courtesy of Luke Barlow) and in the first half of the evening singer/songwriter Alex Ward also performs several splendidly abrasive songs of his own, accompanied by his own electric guitar and “sign theatre” from Isolte Avila ......Whats On Stage In London ****2010
I have worked with SDC for over 15 years. In that time I have
commissioned them to develop over 6 projects. Their creative practise
and support has always been fundamental to the success of the project.
It has ranged from workshops in schools with disabled children to
working on a public art project with over 250 architecture students and
Tony Heaton for 'squarinthecircle'. The evaluator on this project
commented on their instant connection and magic to make the disabled
young people with very limited mobility feel and dance like they had
I have valued their artistic excellence and
insight in these projects and their strength to get stuck in and achieve
high quality process and outcomes.
Their ability to engage
audiences, participants actors, musicians and university students, young
people is outstanding. They have continued to create the space to plan
and collaborate on initiatives I have presented and to work with a range
of artists I have invited to the mix.
Their style, philosophy
and experience of International drama, dance, music and theatre is at
the heart of their work. I have constantly invited them to work with me
as their approach is contemporary and influenced by their wide breadth
of experience. The first project we worked on was with Adam Reynolds
with Beatwax an Arts & Business based project called Sculpting
Space. Their feistiness and hardwork is unprecedented in any other
similar company I have worked with and SDC were doing flash mob events
much earlier than others. They are very experienced and this new project
will be a truly exciting venture to see expand.
Zoe Partington January 2015