Somebody's Watching Me: R&D Day One. Wednesday 28th June 2017
Yesterday marked the first official day of the Somebody's Watching Me team working together in the studio.
We arrived at mac, Birmingham, at 9:45am and grabbed a coffee at the cafe before heading to our studio for the day's work.
At 10am, we had our official Meet & Greet session.
Present were: Benji Reid, Adam Rutherford, Tina Barnes, Amanda Wright, Rachael Veazey, Claire Marshall, Ariel Fung and myself. Also present were the two interpreters for the day: Ken Liddington (interpreting English to BSL), and Shezad Nawab MBE (interpreting BSL to ASL for Ariel).
To start off, I formally introduced myself and the project, and one by one we all introduced ourselves. There was a slight awkwardness as this was the first time that most of us had met each other. So we just eased in with small discussions about ourselves and our work whilst sipping coffee, to break the ice before we began talking about the project.
At around 11am, we began discussion on the synopsis and dance / theatre ideas. Taking on the story, we looked at the script that Tina had written during the last couple of weeks. We realised that the story is rather political, but not very personal. So we discussed dilemmas of the two main characters that myself and Ariel will play. We also discussed how we would explore the emotional relationship of the two characters. We looked at how we would make use of Audio Description to be more creative, and who are our target audience? We decided that a Deaf audience will be our primary focus.
Just before lunch, we looked at visual research ideas that myself and Ariel had collected during the last couple of months. We showed some very powerful political videos and images based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell, and also videos of plays / performances that had been inspired by this story. We looked at the theme of oppression too - and watched the original music video of Michael Jackson's They Don't Care About Us - a very moving, politically-charged montage video of global oppression, this video was banned from airplay due to controversy.
In the afternoon, we had more in-depth discussion focusing much more on the two characters' narrative, with dramaturge Benji Reid guiding the discussion. We felt that we really needed to narrow down the story to the characters' personal lives, instead of the external world of dystopia. The three main focuses for the day were: Communication, Character, and The World.
To wrap up the first day, we had video interviewing sessions. Firstly - Ariel and I were interviewed by Benji, and asked questions about what it's like being deaf. Benji wanted to understand the world we live in as deaf people, and the struggles we go through.
For my personal experiences, I discussed the difficulty of growing up in a hearing family with only myself and my brother being deaf, and the fact that we were isolated from our entire family, because they did not know sign language. I discussed the feelings of frustration, anger, loneliness and sadness, feelings that are shared among many Deaf people.
The interviews went deeper as I was asked more personal questions. So I talked about some of the experiences my brother went through - which I felt were more difficult and emotional than my own experiences.
In fact I felt I had been very lucky in some ways due to being accepted into a prestigious grammar school for the Deaf, as this allowed me to live and learn with Deaf people for the first time in my life. Whereas my brother moved from deaf school to deaf school as they closed down across the country.
Naturally, all sorts of difficult things happen in many families when growing up, and for my brother in particular this was a lonely experience not being able to have even the most basic conversations with family members.
END OF DAY ONE
The recording of all the interviews marked the end of the first studio day of Block 1. By now, I was feeling a little more confident about continuing the process of my first ever R&D project. We all had gotten to know each other that day, and we became familiar with each others personalities, their methods of working, and their approaches to this project.