British Sign Language in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mon 10 Oct, 2022

Not Too Tame and Matthew Dunster's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with Shakespeare North and Northern Stage seamlessly integrates the use of British Sign Language throughout its performance. Deaf actor William Grint, who plays the role of Lysander, speaks to us about translating the Shakespearean text to BSL and the rehearsal process for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare North Playhouse will be staging BSL interpreted performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream on the 18th and 20th of October.

William Grint, playing Lysander:

“Translating Shakespeare is one of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process. As I began exploring the role of Lysander, I was so excited to explore the different tones of the language as it evolves throughout the show, and subsequently the translation process of Shakespeare’s visual imagery into British Sign Language and the many parallel’s there are to play with.

“The biggest challenge is the stage being in the round. With my language, I am reliant on sight lines and physicality, to make it as accessible as possible for everyone at all sides of the stage, while expressing my emotional journey as visually as possible.

“The cast have been learning BSL since the start of rehearsals; a four week process, and I am in awe of their speed at learning such a complex language, and willingness to work together to create a world for our characters that is authentic both on and off stage. I am so excited to share this with deaf audiences and let them see their language at the centre of this story.”

Matthew Dunster, Director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“My thing about Shakespeare is that it should always open the door wider both in terms of the people who make it and who you invite through the door to see it.  In 2017, I did a show called Imogen [based on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline with a grime soundtrack] at Shakespeare’s Globe, which was the last piece of Shakespeare that anybody let me do. It was pretty instrumental in bringing my tenure at the Globe to an end, but I thought it was brilliant and I wanted to pick up where I left off.

In Imogen, I worked with a wonderful actor called William Grint, but his storyline was not the centre of the play. This time we’re going to put an actor who uses BSL right in the centre of the story. We’re thinking of his role and his [use of] BSL as an intervention in the same way that we’re thinking of a non-binary performer who doesn’t want their character to be referred to as ‘she’ as an intervention.”

BSL interpreted performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are:

Tue 18 Oct – 7.30pm

Thu 20 Oct – 7.30pm