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Part three of David Bower's stunning account of Signdance's trip to India in 2009 / 27 April 2009

photo of performer Isolte Avrila

Isolte Avrila of Signdance Collective performs in front of an audience in Bangalore

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Visually India is a very powerful place to be. Some Deaf people talk about visual music. For the Deaf the view out the window is our visual radio. The many sights that I saw remained etched in my minds eye.

Now that I’m back home, it all remains vividly superimposed on everything I see. For instance a quiet British country road teems with an almost hallucinatory vista of Indian life. It’s dificult to comprehend why we don't have the same diversity of life here in these scepter’d isles. It’s incredible how empty of people our country roads are.

We got great feedback from our performance at the Ranga Shankara Theatre in Bangalore. The Deaf community along with the general public turned out in full force. It was one of the best experiences on stage that I have had. We only had to move in our comedy piece and the audiences were in hysterics.

The Ranga Shankara Theatre is based on the same model as the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai; both are amazingly well thought out spaces. They are true theatre spaces, and not at all designed as a multi-functional space.

Often what happens when people attempt to design a theatre space that also functions as a conference centre, the compromise comes at a price. When you approach the Ranga Shankara, you immediately sense the stage, hidden in the heart of a building that focuses completely on one thing only, the performance.

Not only this, the entire building is a performance in itself, with its timbered semi-alfresco rustic restaurant, very cleverly attached to a well designed metal and glass structure. It draws you in. there is a very well stocked theatre bookshop, and it’s a fun place to be.

The stage itself is held within an amphitheatre, the carpentry is impeccable, and embodies the sacred and ancient within its form, at once both modern and atavistic. When the theatre is empty and you lie back and close your eyes you can almost hear the whisper of a thousand performers emanating from the wooden stage. I think this is what Peter Brook means when he talked about ‘The Empty Space’.

The Deaf community in Bangalore is now going to start a theatre company, and after the performance they spoke to the theatre director about a new production of ‘Children of the Lesser God’. So you see theatre is best served by diversity, and within it there is no room for segregation, only a lack of imagination bars the play.

The next step is a tour of Nepal. This will happen over the next two years. Personally this will be a realization of a dream that I have had, to travel the Himalayas as a traveling performance troupe, on horse back.

Luke our musician assures me that horse back riding in the Himalayas is pretty uncomfortable as he recalls from one of his treks. Okay maybe not horses. How about elephants? We will be working along with the Nepalese Deaf community delivering workshops and performances in what hopefully will be a relatively peaceful Nepal.

It was great to go back to India, now’s the time to go, before it turns in to an Americanised shopping complex. If you get the chance I well recommend it.

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