New theatre company Deafferent Theatre is just a little bit deafferent, in that they create new and engaging pieces of work for hearing and deaf audiences. For their first production, presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, they have chosen Daniel Keene's Black Is The Colour, which is performed entirely in Auslan.
The story revolves around two friends and their experiences with domestic violence. Catherine (Anna Seymour) is a victim of physical abuse from her husband, while her best friend Irene (Hilary Fisher) struggles to makes her understand the situation she is in. This production results in a unique exploration regarding loss of voice: in the text, the two characters have lost their voices and in reality, so too have the people of the Deaf community. There are some powerfully directed scenes by Jessica Moody where the characters express their rage and frustration by letting out a scream only to have the room remain empty with silence.
The sound design by shannyn.art is a fascinating addition to the production, adding to the overall dread and coldness of the situation the women in the play find themselves in. The emptiness of the stage except for a black box further enhances the isolation and loneliness being experienced by Catherine and Irene.
As a person who is not hard of hearing or deaf and does not understand Auslan, I attempted to watch the performance but also follow the narrative by reading the surtitles that were being played above the stage. However, there were long passages that needed to be read that had me missing out on seeing how the actors were creating that moment. At one point, the two actors were signing simultaneously in separate scenes so in my effort to watch both of them and read both the passages, I found I couldn't connect with the story or the performance.
Black Is The Colour is a great opportunity for audiences to experience theatre in a way they may not be accustomed to. It’s a reminder that not everyone can attend traditional spoken theatre and that more works like this are needed for true accessibility, and it will be interesting to see what Deafferent Theatre come up with next.
Click here to read my interview with Production Manager and Creative Producer, Ilana Charnelle Gelbart.
Venue: Fringe Hub - Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: until 1 October | 6:45pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc/Group 6+ | $20 Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival