Arts and the Hearing-Impaired

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 1997, 12:00am

Arts and the Hearing-Impaired: An Equal Opportunities Forum and a Threatre Workshop Showcase, Dairy Farm Theatre, The Fringe, August 26 Anger, frustration and bitter disappointment: the looks on the faces of mum, dad and toddler said it all. How and why did this happen and where do we go from here? The performance, by the Hong Kong Theatre for the Deaf, aimed to show simply, but graphically, the effects of deafness on those who suffer and those around them.

It did, magnificently. From the joyful opening scene of the mother giving birth, the feeling of euphoria was short-lived with swift realisation that the baby was deaf.

One poignant scene showed friends of the parents around the dinner table, with the mother coaxing the boy out of watching the television set, only for him to feel painfully excluded from the conversation. The pared-down approach to the production amplified the feeling of isolation.

But there was a positive message, based on the Australian experience of helping those with hearing difficulties.

It became clear as the production progressed that deaf people can, given special educational assistance, live as fully as other members of the community.

One aspect that struck me was how deaf people, as opposed to those who are blind or are wheelchair users, must suffer from an 'invisibility syndrome'.

Unless they point out their hearing impediment, others are likely to be slow on the uptake in understanding more about the difficulties they face.

Mike Canfield, artistic director of the Australian Theatre of the Deaf, used the second part of the evening to showcase a 'theatre with the hearing-impaired workshop'.

Using a funeral scene, in which one person was the dead body, another the minister and others the grieving relatives, Canfield demonstrated the art of visual communication.