Friday, 6 April 2018

Deaf Girly and the deaf heroine in Dark Pines

So today is a very thankful Friday.

Today I learnt from The Bookseller that Lionsgate – think Mad Men, Orange is the New Black – has optioned television rights for Will Dean's fabulous first book Dark Pines.

Tuva Moodyson should soon (taps foot impatiently) be on a TV screen near you. A deaf main character. Who doesn't sign but speaks. Who struggles to fight the stereotypes of what hearing people think all deaf people are like.

My heart is doing little giddy cartwheels.

Why? Because although Tuva and I are very different, we are also very similar. We both have pretty big hearing losses. We both need our hearing aids like most people need air. We can both be pretty socially awkward and take a while to get to know. We both know what it's like to feel completely isolated – even in a place full of people. And we both have faced the judgement of people who think we're not that deaf.

Growing up, I lost count of the number of people – my university disability support officer included – who said the soul destroying words, 'You're not really deaf' to me.

Just because I could speak. Just because I could get by in conversations – flying by the seat of my pants and with a lot of guess work I might add.

Some people meant it as a compliment – as if being deaf is a bad thing, which in case you're wondering it isn't – while some people (that uni support officer) meant 'I'm not going to help you as I think you're attention-seeking fake.' And she didn't help me. For two years. And then I helped myself. And paid a friend to take my notes and my marks went from passes to firsts.

But that's a totally different story.

Back to Dark Pines. Before this amazing book came out, Will approached me on Twitter and asked me if I would do an accuracy read for the character of Tuva. And of course I jumped at the chance. Apart from my own book, which is currently on ice while I work out how to make it better, there are very few books with deaf main characters. And even fewer that have actually been published.

And what a character Tuva is. She takes a while to get to know... and you're never going to be her best friend by the way, which I love. So many books give you so much of the main character you feel like you know them inside out. With Tuva that is not the case. And that's so true to her character. Will just seems to get it.

I was able to advise Will on things like lipreading, hearing in the dark – you can't – and other things that tugged at my hearing heartstrings and when I re-read Dark Pines on its release, gosh, it was so nice to catch up with Tuva.

I was lucky enough recently to meet Tuva again while doing an accuracy read of Will's second book Red Snow. I'm giving nothing away except that it's brilliant. Brilliant.

When I heard that Dark Pines had been optioned, my immediate thought was that I really hope the production company cast a deaf, aural, hearing aid wearer as the character of Tuva. I hope that they don't cast a hearing person who has to pretend to be deaf. I want the acting to be about the storyline and Tuva's personality not her deafness.

And I absolutely didn't* email Will to find out how I could audition for the role of Tuva.

But I guess what I am thankful for is that slowly but surely, all types of deafness are being shown in media. From the brilliantly wonderful, Oscar-winning short film The Silent Child to Will's book. Gradually, that one-size-fits-all approach to portraying deafness is being dwarfed by bigger, better things. And I am so thankful for that.

Happy Friday peeps


*I absolutely did and Lionsgate peeps, if you're reading this, I absolutely want to put myself forward when you come to start casting Tuva by the way.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Deaf Girly and captioned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Last week something very exciting happened. Eighteen months after buying the tickets for me and FJM, we finally got to head to the Palace Theatre to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Stagetext captions... and it was AMAZING.

I've written a lot about the importance of captions and how about before I knew I was deaf and even once I knew I was deaf, I simply assumed I wasn't intellectual enough to enjoy theatre as I yawned my way through a year 10 Shakespeare trip or woke myself up sleep talking during The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I found attending the theatre arduous, horrific, embarrassing and time wasting. I came out angry with myself for being so rubbish at something. When really I should have been giving my deaf. teenage self a break.

But then Stagetext came along and did that for me. Hurrah.

However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about the matinee and evening performance set up of Harry Potter. I was terrified I'd find the whole thing too exhausting and wouldn't follow it. I actually warned FJM that this might be the case, and he was very lovely about it.

But the reality was totally different.

Sure at the start when the conversation started quickly and I found my eyes darting between the caption boxes and the stage, I was worried it still wouldn't work. But quickly my brain got used to the set up and before I knew it I had forgotten that I was reading along and was utterly immersed.

Of course, it helps that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is very very good. Very good. There's lots going on visually, the characters are familiar and the plot is full of references a Harry Potter fan can gleefully pick up on. But as the final curtain fell, I was still amazed I'd managed it. Effortlessly. And I'd enjoyed it.

For many years, before technology gave me reliable subtitles for movies and theatre, books were my preferred form of entertainment. When I read books, I didn't miss anything. I started on an equal footing with hearing people. I got all the secrets. I never get secrets in real life. I never hear whispers or overhear information. Books made my world 3D. 

JK Rowling has always given me 3D Harry Potter, through the books, the subtitled DVDs and occasional convenient showings of the subtitled films at the cinema, and the play was no different. 

If you've not been to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet with Stagetext captions then I would implore you to go. The ticket booking process is easy, the box office incredible helpful and the whole day is amazing. What's more, if you buy a bottle of water at the bar, you get your programme half price, which seemed like a good deal.

That night, I stepped out of the theatre feeling inspired. Not just by JK Rowling's brilliant play but by the fact that I had finally stamped out that teenage insecurity of not being intellectual enough to attend the theatre once and for all.

Happy Easter peeps