Category Archives: Access

Captioned Theatre at the Bristol Old Vic

Last weekend, I had the fortune to go to the Bristol Old Vic’s first captioned performance, ‘Juliet and her Romeo’, which was basically a reworking of Romeo and Juliet with old people in the title roles and the younger members of the families raising objections, all set in a nursing home.

It was an interesting take on a Shakespearean classic, and I’ll admit it here – I sniffled at the final scenes of ‘Romeo + Juliet’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. After the play though, my eyes were watering for a different reason – watching the captions as the actors spouted line after line of Shakespearean dialogue, of which – this being Shakespeare – there was a lot.

Whilst it was great to able to enjoy a play here in Bristol, where captioning in theatres hasn’t really taken off yet, I got a crick in my neck from turning to look at the captions and a headache from all the speed-reading. Not to mention flicking my eyes between the captions (off-stage right) and the action, which felt slightly like watching two different things at once, so split was my attention.

Having said all that, it was a good play, with good actors, and some funny one-liners – the script was tweaked here and there to adjust to the change of scene from 16th century verona to modern-day geriatric antics. All of the actors were good, but I liked Juliet and the nurse. Romeo killing Tybalt was a bit drawn-out, what with the change of weapon from a dagger to a pillow, and the part where Romeo learns of Juliet’s ‘death’, rants at the unfairness of it all and rushes to her side was glossed over with some on-the-spot jogging from the elderly lead that impressed me with his levels of fitness. The acting was good, the actor’s memories incredible, and it was interesting to approach the classic doomed love affair from a completely different angle.

I merely have some suggestions for improvement – moving the caption screen to just below the stage a la TV subtitles style and making the screen longer so your eyes aren’t constantly snapping back and forth reading the lines. Apart from that, jolly good show from the Old Vic, and here’s hoping that having done it for the first time and discovered that it didn’t cause anything to blow up, and indeed that they sold out the audience, a significant percentage of whom were wearing hearing-aids, they’ll do it again. And again. In fact here’s to many more captioned plays at the Bristol Old Vic!

A reflection on ‘SO unfair’

I have now had some time to reflect on why I was so deeply irritated by the lack of subtitles on the DVD release of Sanctuary Season 1.

One of things that gave me pause for thought was someone who, when I posted a status update on facebook expressing my annoyance, asked me why I hadn’t simply checked to see if there were subtitles before buying it. Such an obvious question.

Why didn’t I? The answer is; I assumed.

I assumed that in 2010, a DVD box set of a popular-ish sci-fi show, produced in a rich country, would come with subtitles. A few years ago I would never have made this assumption and would have suspiciously scrutinised every potential DVD purchase to confirm the presence of subtitles before handing over my cash. But years of nearly always finding subtitles on DVDs has made me lazy.

I assumed wrong. This is, if anything, a timely reminder that access for the deaf is not yet universal. Take online tv streaming for example. iPlayer is wonderful, with subtitles on most programmes, yet it has its failings, for example on The Bubble and Mock the Week, they seem to be insisting on using ‘live’ subtitles for recorded shows, which are 30 seconds late, mis-spelt and so annoying that I don’t have the patience to persevere. But they’re still easily outperforming the other channels – I’ve yet to get the 4oD subtitles to work and ITV and 5 don’t seem to bother at all.

One needs to remain on one’s toes and keep complaining if one is to get anywhere. With this in mind, I have emailed both the UK and Canadian distributors (thanks to Kaylee for the info) of the Sanctuary DVDs expressing my disappointment and asking if there are any subtitled region 2 DVDs out there (sadly the one in Australia turned not to have subtitles after all – thanks to the seller for such a prompt response) and I look forward to their replies.

Post Script – distributors never did get back to me.

Don’t forget to check your DVDs for subtitles!

SO unfair.

I am a sci-fi nut. I love Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek, Supernatural, X Files, Stargate, Babylon 5, Space Precinct, and I don’t care who knows it. I am geek. A new series that I took an instant shine to is Sanctuary, from Canada, an innnovative show shot mostly on green screen, simply because of all the effects, but they have good stories too.

Recently I gave into temptation from Amazon and purchased Season 1, as there were a few episodes I missed, and I wanted to catch up, right from the beginning. It arrived yesterday, I got back late in the evening and immediately put disc 1 in, eager to watch the pilot episode in all its glory.

Wait… Where are the subtitles? I frantically searched through set-up, episode selection, even scene selection, desperately looking for that magic word “captions”. Then I examined the box minutely for any possible clues. In the end I was forced to accept that there were no subtitles.

It was at this point that I realised I’m spoilt. This DVD was released last year, in 2009. Silly me, I had assumed that a popular sci-fi / fantasy show, produced in the 21st century, the lead actress and executive producer of which, one Amanda Tapping, is a patron of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People (no, seriously, she is) would be released on DVD with subtitles.

Duh. How stupid do I feel now? And now, I discover, after some online research, that the Region 1 DVDs of Sanctuary are subtitled, but region 2 is not. What? That is so unfair. I mean, why? Why release one region with subtitles and one without? What, are deaf people who happen to live in region 2 not worthy of captions?

Now I’ve found a possibility, a non-region specific subtitled DVD set – from Australia. I’m stalking it on ebay and considering how far I will go in order to get subtitles. The answer is: a long way, and possibly as far as $50 AUS, which is what it will cost to buy and ship it to the UK. In the meantime, I’m going to try and recoup my costs on ebay – Sanctuary season 1 for £15, anyone? – and look for the official Sanctuary website / email address so I can complain. I mean, why? Why subtitle region 1 and not region 2?

SO unfair.

Thoughtful service = delighted customers. Restaurants, take note.

Last weekend, I went for a birthday celebration meal with my parents and godmother. Out of the four of us, three are deaf. We’d gone to an Indian restaurant recommended to me by a neighbour, who said they produced good food, were reasonably priced and reviews I read mentioned friendly staff. So I took them there, with hope that it would be a nice evening out. It was lovely.

The manager, who personally greeted us, and all the other customers, didn’t bat an eye when told we were deaf (let’s face it, my father’s hearing is starting to go a bit as well) and had us escorted to a quiet-ish table by the window. We settled in and picked up our menus. As I squinted at the menu in the typically-dim restaurant light, I realised there seemed to be more light.

I looked up, and saw the ceiling-installed spotlights above our table getting brighter. We then noticed the manager moving away from a small control panel, and I realised that he had, entirely on his own initiative, made the spotlights above our specific table brighter, just for us.

It may seem a like a small gesture, but for someone who is used to dealing with dark, candle-lit tables, confused, mumbling waiters, and keen but clueless servers, it was one of the most impressive, sweet and thoughtful things a restaurant manager has ever done for us. Why can’t they all be like that? From there on in, it was all good. The staff were friendly and attentive, the food was good, and the manager wished me good luck for my forthcoming trip to India.

For a good Indian meal and deaf-aware service, head down to the Raj Mahal, Frenchay, Bristol. Wonderful.