New theatre show to put deaf artists centre stage

A new theatre show featuring deaf artists is to be performed in Belfast this weekend.

The Fisherman’s Friend will open at The MAC as part of the Deaf Arts Festival NI.

Written by Cre8 Theatre and developed with investment from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, the show is one of 20 festival events that will take place over the Easter weekend.

Set in a mythical Northern Irish bay, it is devised by deaf and hearing artists, and directed by playwright Sarah Lyle. Featuring music, sign song, integrated sign language, visual storytelling, movement and puppetry, it tells the story of one fisherman and an ambitious girl with big dreams for the future.

The Deaf Arts Festival is developed with an aspiration to connect with deaf communities across Northern Ireland.

Cre8 Theatre’s artistic director Ms Lyle said: “It has been an amazing experience collaborating with the deaf community over the last three years.

“With the support from the Arts Council, The Fisherman’s Friend sees Cre8 artists delve deeper into creating artistic work that really speaks to diverse audiences and incorporates deaf performers.

“It is also enriching the hearing community in Northern Ireland by offering opportunity to challenge creativity, empowering a new network of brave theatre makers working in wholly inclusive, safe theatre production environments.”

Damian Smyth, joint head of drama, dance and literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Cre8 Theatre’s new family-friendly production, The Fisherman’s Friend is an original and inspired theatre production from a young local company that is pushing the boundaries of what has come before.

“Bringing deaf and hearing artists together on stage, accompanied by sign language interpretation, captioning and music for vibration, combines to create a thrillingly new and immersive experience for both deaf and hearing audiences.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to promote the language and culture of the deaf community in the kind of inclusive and compelling way that the arts do best.”

Other festival highlights include acting workshops, gallery tours, street art design workshops and Easter signed stories and crafts.

The Deaf Arts Festival takes place this weekend (Arts Council NI/PA)
The Deaf Arts Festival takes place this weekend (Arts Council NI/PA)

Paula Clarke, artist, activist and performer said: “For deaf artists and performers, it can be difficult to break through into mainstream arts as our language and culture are different.

“Deaf artists being given lead roles in this project enables our community to showcase not only our wonderful language, culture, and stories but also how integrated theatre can be done in a way that welcomes and includes everyone.

“And this is our belief – everyone regardless of language, background and culture has a place within the arts and a right to enjoy theatre fully.

“This is about sending a message to the deaf community to remind them that they too can achieve their dreams, and to aim high.

The Deaf Arts Festival takes place from March 29-31.