Paula Clarke and Jane O’Brien, BSL and ISL users, bring us on a choreographic dance though Northern Irish Deaf history.
Continuing our investigation of the state of our nation, The Naked Hands explores the legacy of the Deaf community. How they have fought against the odds to use their suppressed minority language this play looks to the future with optimistic hope.
We brought together an award-winning team of artists, supported by the Lyric's team, to envision this production. Amanda Coogan, critically-acclaimed and award-winning performance artist - and Child of Deaf Adults - directs the work. Multi-award winning Lighting Designer Paul Keogan brings his beautiful vision. Mercury prize-nominated composer Hannah Peel lends her music. The phenomenal Ciara McMullan captured the stunning visuals as our Director of Photography, all supported by the Department for Communities.
At the opening of our play the phone is ripped away and we go back in time remembering the Deaf history of this place. At the tumultuous turn of the last century Francis Maginn, the founding father of the Deaf community, set up the Ulster Institute for the Deaf. In the process lifting many Deaf people out of poverty. Maginn was a strong advocate for sign language as the best way to communicate for Deaf people - we know now how right he was!
Did you know his contemporary Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone by accident to help his deaf wife? The smartphone has been an amazing bridge for Deaf people - and for us all in the recent locked-down past! Bell, in opposition to Maginn, advocated an oral system of teaching Deaf children; teaching them to access the world through speech and lip reading.
Visually stunning, this play remembers the first Deaf people to work in the mills and Harland & Wolfe. They do not shy way from showing us the damaging affect of oralism. In the end of this short play they realise the answer to best access to the world around them is in front of their very eyes; in their hands and in their body. In sign language they find liberation.
They finish they play with a beautiful poem celebrating the Deaf community and Sign Language -
“Sign language is beautiful,
Sign language is for everybody,
It gives access to education, to learning, to communication,
There are different sign languages all around the world,
Sign language is for all.
We are so proud of sign language,
It is a right, it provides access,
We celebrate the vibrant Deaf community,
Sign language is for everybody.”