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Somebody's Watching Me: Day Eight - Workshops with Matty Gurney

Earlier this month, we worked on the elements of mime and gesture with the genius Matty Gurney - a talented Deaf actor, comedian, and visual vernacular artist.


I picked Matty up from the station at 10am, as he came up on the train from Oxford. We made our way to mac to begin work in the Foyle studio.

As soon as we arrived in the studio, we were already discussing so many ideas and things we could create. We began looking at the Secret Code - where Billy and Ariel's characters realise all their communication is being watched, so they are forced to create a new method of communication that incorporates gesture, dance and mime, to evade the ever-prying eyes of Big Brother.

Developing a Secret Code was a new challenge for us, as we needed to incorporate dance elements in signs and gesture. We thought about the very early methods of sign language from around a century ago - the way they used to finger spell almost every single word, before there were signs for these words. The alphabet back then was communicated by pointing at the different sections of the palms and fingers. The old ways of signing could be useful in a futuristic setting, we thought, but this particular method is too small and not very visual for a stage show.

Matty then gave us a very useful flip-board lecture on how to begin creating a play/film/show. He explained the importance of always beginning with the 'world' - setting the scene so the audience has an understanding of the setting, for example: what year it is, what the place/environment is like (sprawling metropolis, tropical jungle), what the political situation is (war / peace), and so on. And that was followed by the 'Technology', and then the 'Elements'. Having this basic theatrical knowledge is fundamental in planning for any show.

I found all this extremely useful - I am learning so much from Matty as it has really helped give me a clearer vision for my project and how I can set out to make it happen.

By the end of today's session, we had started planning the concept of using light in our performances - LED gloves, UV lights and sticky tape, and illusions using darkness to show drones floating around the stage space. So a lot of these ideas revolved around the use of darkness, preferably a black box theatre setting to achieve the stunning light and illumination effects we want to create.


"One of the reasons why today sparked more productivity and confidence, was the fact that Matty is the only other Deaf professional working with us on the project."


I am glad we brought in Matty as a Dramaturg for my project. I had learned so much from today - probably more than any other studio day so far. Even during lunch break, we were engaged in so much discussion, looking at videos on YouTube, demonstrating physical movement ideas whilst we ate.

I think one of the reasons why today sparked more productivity and confidence, was the fact that Matty is the only other Deaf professional that we brought in to support us on the project.

Working with hearing professionals is not a problem, apart from the fact that they don't understand Deaf culture, behaviour, or even the discrimination that we face, so a lot of time in the studio was spent explaining examples of incidences and situations that Deaf people face. The first studio session back in June for example - Ariel and I did a lot of interview videos talking about our personal experiences that surprised Benji, Adam, and Tina, because they were not aware of any of this. Matty, on the other hand, understands completely all of this - the passion, humour and anger that he brought in to the studio was all from his own personal experiences and that of his friends and family.

We look forward to working with Matty again later this month as we approach Block Three - the final phase of the R&D project that starts in September.


"I have learned so much from today's session with Matty - probably more than any other studio day on this project so far."


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