Events, Guest Post

21 July 2016

Hearing is believing

Paul Belmonte from Deaf Action Scotland, explains how he prepares to convey the story of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for a signed performance at Stirling Castle.

It’s been said that if you do what you’re passionate about, you’ll never do another day’s work in your life. That is pretty much exactly how I’m feeling right now.

There are four things I love doing; let me tell you about the first three. I love history. I’m a proud member of Historic Scotland and there’s nothing I love more on a weekend than exploring a castle and absorbing hundreds of years of history.

My second love is theatre and I get particularly excited by a good performance of Shakespeare. I’ll never forget going to an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Preston Mill in East Lothian a number of years ago; seeing that famous play performed in the open air was something really special.

My main love, though, is my job. I’m a registered British Sign Language interpreter and I can honestly say I love going to work (almost!) every day. Most of my work is in the community, working in health, employment and legal settings, but I do also work in performance from time to time. My work is all about providing access to all areas of life for Deaf people and access to the arts can be particularly rewarding.

So you can only imagine my excitement when I was asked to interpret A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors at Stirling Castle, performed by Chapterhouse Theatre Company, the same company I’d seen perform those years ago!

The last few weeks have been really hard work, getting my head around the text and making copious notes of how I will translate each line into BSL.

There are some online resources that explain Shakespeare’s plays line by line and I have to admit, I am really loving them right now! I’m now rehearsing the lines at home and looking forward to meeting the company and getting an idea of how they will be delivered and how I can match the emotion and tone of every character. I feel Bottom the weaver (an incurable ham actor) comes very naturally to me; Titania the fairy queen perhaps less so.

The company have also sent me photographs of each character so I can create a single visual sign that describes each one. I need to clearly convey the story to the Deaf audience, while including BSL equivalents of some of the beautiful poetry that the play contains. BSL is a rich, visual language, so finding poetry in visual form is challenging, but hugely satisfying.

The signed performance is on Wednesday 27 July at Stirling Castle. I’m nervous, of course, but I’ve been doing theatre interpreting for almost ten years and I’m particularly looking forward to this one. I will be able to combine my love for history, Shakespeare and interpreting all into one event and be able to say that this is what I do for work!

I mentioned at the outset that I have four loves; the fourth is writing, so being asked to write about what I love doing makes this pretty much the perfect job!

Paul Belmonte
British Sign Language Interpreter
Deaf Action Scotland
Deaf Action Scotland Website