Wednesday, 12 January 2005

Heads Up! Alex Jones & Florette Cohen, Jan 12, 2005

 Heads Up! written by Alex Jones and Florette Cohen
by TAJ Productions 

 Deaflympics Cultural Festival
 BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square, Jan 12 to 15, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Heads Up! is a joyful show designed both to entertain and educate audiences about Deaf culture and Auslan, the Australian Sign Language.

The show is the Australian contribution to the Deaflympics Cultural Festival program. Alex Jones and Florette  Cohen perform a collage of stories, mime, song, dance and an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

Jones, who is also Artistic Director of the Festival, is a Deaf actor while Cohen is Hearing but fluent in Auslan.

The show uses English and Auslan as well as a theatrical visual and physical language to tell its stories and communicate with a mixed Deaf and Hearing audience. Many audience members used sign language from other countries.

The pair begins with a lively and fun version of a pop song, Life and then proceed to teach us several useful and simple signs in Auslan; Yes, No, Deaf, Hearing.

The eye-opener was the Auslan sign for Australia. It is a visual image depicting the English transporting convicts to Australia.

Some of the vignettes are cheeky mime stories. The first is a short comic physical and completely silent scene between two competitive painter-decorators. It is used to demonstrate how a story can be told without language- either English or Auslan - using only body language and facial expression.

Audience participates cheerfully in the learning of sign and several are called on stage to make moving machines. In this show, we had a physicalised, human version of a photocopier, a pencil sharpener and a crane made by volunteers.

Another story told verbally and in Auslan then in theatrical language, was an Aboriginal tale of how the birds got their colours. It was a charming dance piece.

The final piece was Romeo and Juliet, a universal love story re-jigged to tell the tale of a Deaf Romeo and a Hearing Juliet who met and fell in love despite their families being at war.

It was a crisp, funny and clever way to demonstrate difference and prejudice through a well-known story.

The finale was a group participation song with the audience learning to sign words to I am we are we are Australian.

Heads Up! brings new energy to the educational theatre arena and it seems to be a very effective learning tool for students and adults alike. I certainly know more Auslan than I did when I arrived.

LOOK FOR: Juliet's speech on the balcony

By Kate Herbert

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