Deaf and Hearing Ensemble’s first major Fringe production – The People of the Eye – is an exploration of the development of a deaf identity from a number of different perspectives: from a deaf child learning to deal with microaggressions, to a hearing sister’s struggle to understand how difference might affect a person’s access to opportunities, to a hearing mother struggling with the reality that their child will need to live in a world in which there are challenges.
By focusing on the perspective of a child growing up in a hearing world, it might be easy to dismiss the ignorant comments faced by the central characters as the ignorance of childhood bullies, but Deaf and Hearing Ensemble’s focus is sharp: although such idiocy from strangers towards children, of course, does exist, the microaggressions, the stupid things that are said, are not limited to child perpetrators. They use humour to make their point, but their look at the chasm between hearing and deaf culture is a sharp rebuke of the ‘kindness’ and ‘goodness’ enacted by so many hearing adults.
People of the Eye is an origin story – a look at how the identity of a deaf adult might be built through a personal medical history, family interaction, and their peer group over time – and the incorporation of family videos demonstrates a strong and moving desire to understand one’s past (and thus, one’s present). But the political is never far away – much like in Nina Raines’ 2010 play, Tribes, People of the Eye shows that brief moment where a doctor convinces a parent not to teach their child sign language, referencing their chances of being ‘normal’ as improved by lip reading. While Deaf and Hearing Ensemble drop the comment lightly, it – combined with thoughtful performances in BSL and English, and a good chunk of light ribbing at audience members’ ignorance of BSL – resonates deeply. As with Touretteshero’s Backstage in Biscuitland which you cannot watch without wanting every show in the future to be a relaxed performance – one leaves People of the Eye understanding not only how much they really should learn BSL (or even basic BSL) but about the culture difference which can possibly be breached with a bit of effort on the part of hearing adults. (BL)
People of the Eye is on at 13.00 at Northern Stage at Summerhall until 27th August (not 10th, 17th, 24th). Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Closed Caption, BSL - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/people-of-the-eye
Francesca Ramsey on Microaggressions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPRA4g-3yEk
Touretteshero, Backstage in Biscuitland: http://www.touretteshero.com/2014/03/19/backstage-in-biscuit-land/
Nina Raines’ Tribes reviewed in The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/8078475/Tribes-Royal-Court-review.html