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Somebody's Watching Me: R&D Day Three. Friday 30th June 2017

Day Three, began with everyone arriving at mac Birmingham by 10am.

Present in today's session were: Claire Marshall (mac Birmingham), Rachael Veazey (Deaf Explorer), Ariel Fung (International Collaborator), Benji Reid (Dramaturge), Tina Barnes (Writer), Adam Rutherford (Assistant Choreographer), Amanda Wright (Dance Access Worker), Shezad Nawab MBE (ASL Interpreter), and myself.


We revisited yesterday's work to start the day, looking back on the Speech Therapy exercises and having a play around some more, for example - I did the exercise with Benji again, and this time Ariel would be standing beside me, and each time I tried to say the tongue twister, Benji would instruct Ariel to slap my face. So we worked on the frustration - acting on it more and feeling the shame and anger.

We then moved on to our childhood stories - making the sign language, acting, and dance bigger. Ariel would then repeat her childhood story, but by speaking it only. She was told not to include ANY form of dance or acting, or even sign language, just to stand on the spot and literally speak the story. This was tricky because of the urge to sign, and the fact she had never been asked to do something like this before. The exercise was interesting because it really took courage for a Deaf person to stand before an audience and speak in a language (English) that isn't her first or even second language.

"This is probably the most truthful thing we have seen so far today." -Benji

When Ariel was made to just speak the story, it was very powerful to watch. There is definitely something there to explore too. Benji stated that this was probably the most truthful thing we have seen so far today. The exercise was about stripping away the things that someone normally uses to communicate (for example: sign language, dance) and then forcing them to use the thing they are most vulnerable to communicate with (speech).



This afternoon we worked with Adam, exploring improvisation and looking at the stories we created and translating into movement and dance. We worked together on each others stories to add oppressive elements - so for example, I would stand behind Ariel and hold her hands down while she would try hard to sign her story.

What we were trying to think about today was the emotional intensity and the relationship between the two characters. We needed to think about the physical relationship of the characters. If we could establish that, everything else can springboard from there.

We had more discussions towards the end of the day which focused on simplifying the synopsis, and making it just about the relationship rather than playing big narratives. We developed an interesting debate of sign language vs. cochlear implants - signing is a beautiful language, a culture and a central aspect of many Deaf people's identities, but is being destroyed by the rise of the cochlear implant technology.


What I learned from today is the importance of emotion, and not just relying on dance. Ariel and I both enjoyed the acting exercises, but found it quite exhausting. We loved the challenges, but found it harder than dancing, because it needs to be personal, and we have to show that personal expression.

The hope is that we will both take on board all the expertise from the past week, so that rather than just doing lots of exercises, we will use them to understand what Benji and Adam are trying to do - and incorporate these ideas into our work as artists.

Benji advised us to actively keep a diary of everything we do, including all exercises, write notes of our experiences and learnings, and we can look back on these notes throughout our careers.


Have Instagram? You can find out more about Billy's work and experiences by following him on Instagram: @masterbilbo

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