Signs of madness, hope and coolness!

Signs of various kinds are brightening the world at the moment, let me tell you all about them!

I’m in a play! It’s called ‘The Birds’ and it’s based on the Ancient Greek comedy of the same name by Aristophanes. I’m not sure how much I can reveal, but the rehearsals have been brilliant, and the play is mad and funny. How many plays have you seen where the cast burst into song whilst transforming into other creatures? None? Then come to this!

It’s completely bonkers and a good laugh, but it doesn’t pull any punches in its’ analogies between the ‘Birds’ and the political situation today. I don’t have many lines but I’ll have a certain… regal… air. Bow to me! The cast are great, and I can vouch for their comedic talents. Have I whetted your curiosity yet? Then come on down to The Sherman Theatre on 11th and 12th May! All BSL terped of course, plenty of signs of madness to be seen! And I don’t just mean the terp… 🙂

The theatre blurb says to expect the unexpected as Disability Arts Cymru’s Unusual Stage School present their unique version of Aristophanes’s Greek comedy The Birds, directed by Cheryl Martin.

Expect the unexpected all right!

‘Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family Life’ tells the story of a narrative inquiry with three deafhearing families. For many people, deafness represents loss and silence. For others, being deaf is a genetic quirk; an opportunity for learning, spiritual adventure and reward. (Yes, I lifted that from the official blog). The author, Dr Donna West, spent time – a lot of time – with three families, and this book is the result. What makes this book unique is the poetic and performative narratives at the heart of it; she has effectively communicated the families’ and individuals’ hopes and fears in an artistic, nuanced way.

I had the opportunity to attend a seminar Dr West gave about her research a while ago, and as part of it she showed us a poem that one of the deaf children, referred to as Bella, had written / created. It was a powerful analogy between penguins and a particular experience of deafness – you’ll have to read the book if you want that to make sense! But it inspired me to create a sign language poem based what I’d read, entitled ‘Bella’s Penguins’, that’s how expressive it was. This book may be well worth a read not only for its study of the experiences of a deaf/hearing family, but also for how these experiences have been described and narrated.

It will be launched at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol on the 25th April, see the official blog for more info! All welcome, BSL terps laid on.

And lastly, after being blown away by the leader of the United States being able to sign (and his wife!) my inner geek is geeking out at a video that looks like it’s gonna go viral – it’s up to 1.9 million hits so far! What video?

Sir Paul ‘needs no introduction’ McCartney has only gone and produced a video of Natalie ‘Star Wars’ Portman and Johnny ‘that’s Captain Jack Sparrow’ Depp signing his song ‘My Valentine’.


True, it’s American Sign Language, not British (and that sign is not ‘tampon’, it’s ASL, and it’s the correct ASL sign for ‘appear’. Forgive me for giggling though!) but the actors used are themselves American, so maybe if this video gets popular enough, Sir McCartney will come back to his roots and do a BSL version with some Brit celebs, though how he’s going to top Natalie ‘just call me the Black Swan’ Portman and Johnny ‘cool is my middle name’ Depp I’ve no idea. Love to see him try though!

Natalie Portman definitely has a natural style, I’d love to know if she’s signed before rehearsing for this video, and how much rehearsing it took. Johnny Depp has a certain moody stare that will no doubt set some hearts fluttering but whilst his hands aren’t as fluid as Portmans’, he still carries it off in style (is there anything he can’t carry off in style?).

Love it!

Signs of madness, hope and coolness indeed – I always knew signs could express anything, but it’s time the world knew it too. Go Sir McCartney!

5 thoughts on “Signs of madness, hope and coolness!

  1. Pingback: Bella’s penguin | deafhearingfamilylife

  2. myrefrainsisthewrongtin

    Hmmm, I think the best thing that came of the president’s one sign at this event is that the Huffington Post now has a video of a young Deaf vlogger on their site! While I seriously doubt Obama has any real knowledge of ASL, and am not in a hurry to pat him on the back for signing the one word that likely the entire US populous knows or at least recognizes, I will be glad that ASL and a D/deaf person is getting some exposure from this occurrence.

    As for the McCartney video… I suppose you could argue exposure again… but when are Deaf people going to be in control of the production of major sign language productions. This was a video made by, with, for hearing people using some sign language. cool? perhaps. Convince me.

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman have brought ASL and sign language in general to the masses. People have gone “ooh, that’s pretty”. And hopefully this will assist in creating more awareness and more interest in sign language, thus giving the deaf community more opportunity to show the mainstream what we’re capable of. How am I doing? 🙂

  3. myrefrainsisthewrongtin

    you’re doin’ okay. Maybe the next step is to create your own vid with some other Deaf folks in England for the same song, and post it as a response! or… hmm I dunno how else can we capitalize -wink wink- on this production? Yeah exposure is good. I will concede that, but let’s just be wary about what precedents we set regarding who has control of and makes money off of the exposure of ASL or other signed languages. The oppressor or the oppressed? Does a video made by hearing people using… questionable ASL interpretation qualify as empowering Deaf people? Careful, this might be the beginning of an on blog bickering match. 😉

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Maybe not empowering deaf people in and of itself, but at time of writing, that video has been duplicated and the total number of views are in the millions. That’s a lot of people who have oohed and aahed at the pretty sign language and hopefully will now be encouraged to learn some of their own. It’s the first time I’ve seen Hollywood stars doing something like this, and I do hope this will encourage (good quality) sign songs to take off a little. Who knows, I may have a go myself, but with something that has a bit more bounce in it than ‘my valentine’ 🙂

      A dangerous precedent? Perhaps, but I’m really hoping this is a precedent we can turn to our advantage.


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