Huw Blainey: Shakespeare that really is accessible to everyone

May 25, 2017 by

The thing that has struck me most about the rehearsal process for ‘The Tempest’ with Taking Flight Theatre Company is how layered it is.  In addition to it being a Shakespearean text, there’s music, British Sign Language and Audio Description integrated into the performance whilst also needing to keep in consideration that all this will take place in the great outdoors in a promenade format! Oh and also…set in the 1920s!

This is a Shakespeare production that may not necessarily please the purists but it is certainly one of the few, if not the only, example of one that really is accessible to everyone.

It has been completely fascinating to watch my co-performer Sami Thorpe going through scenes with us the actors and then interpreting this in BSL*.  It is incredibly impressive that someone can do this with a Shakespearean text but even more so to then have to sometimes adapt the sign language to match the actor’s interpretation of this text.  Leading on from this, I’ve enjoyed seeing how Sami has been integrated into scenes in so many different ways.  Not only does Sami use BSL during the performance but also visual vernacular that has similar qualities to BSL but is more suited to performance and so another thing that’s unique to Taking Flight.

It’s so refreshing to see someone who’s using BSL actually performing as well as communicating to D/ deaf and Hard of Hearing audience members rather than standing on the side as I’ve seen in other theatre performances.  I realise these other shows would usually only have one show with BSL interpretation; I can only imagine how fantastic it must be for D/ deaf theatre-goers to know they can book for any Taking Flight performance as opposed to having to look carefully at the list of dates to see which performance will include an interpreter.

Aside from the play, it has been very enjoyable learning how to communicate with the phenomenal Deaf actress Stephanie Back.  I am now able to finger spell the alphabet as well as know how to introduce myself and ask questions such as  ‘How?’, ‘When?’ and ‘Why?’ etc.  I fully intend to continue learning and have bought a book & DVD to educate me further in BSL.  Having two experienced interpreters in the rehearsal room on a daily basis is a real bonus for this as I have been able to learn a little bit extra from them here & there.

The other feature in this play that I haven’t been exposed to until this process is audio description. It’s quite a simple concept e.g. the opening scene where the storm is raging and as Sebastian and I fall over and say “Man down”. Having said that, it is another layer that needs to be added to the text and crucial for it to be as clear as possible for blind audience members. I had never heard of the term ‘audio flyer’ before but had the pleasure of recording one the week before rehearsals in order to advertise the show to blind audience members.

During my short career, music has played a big part with nearly every production I’ve been involved in requiring me to play music. However this is the first time I’ll have played keys outdoors! I remember questioning how this could logistically work outdoors and that question has been well and truly answered since starting rehearsals –  it will live in a foley trolley. The trolley will move around with the actors (and audience) during the performance and along with Becky Davies’ brilliant design will really add to the 1920s feel that we’ll be portraying during the play.  The music has also been written to fit this era and the talented Dan Lawrence’s compositions include many a jazz chord and will include me playing some Joplin-esque rag-time on the keys.

I don’t want to give too much else away…I hope to see you between June the 8th and July the 30th when we’ll be sharing the story with Wales and Bristol!

*British Sign Language



Photo: Claire Cousin

Foley Design A3

Foley trolley. Please credit Designer: Becky Davies

The audio flyer:



Unless otherwise stated next to date, follow this link below for tickets.



Thompson’s Park, Cardiff

(meet at main gate on Romilly Rd)


June 8th  12.00 & 18.30

June 9th   18.30

June 10th  14.00 & 18.30 02920 304400


The Pavilion, Langland, Swansea


11th June 2pm

Bryntirion Comprehensive, Bridgend

June 15th  18.30

Buy on the door

Elan Valley

(meet at visitor centre)


June 16th  noon & 5pm

June 17th 4pm

Roath Park, Cardiff

(meet at conservatory)

June 18th 6.30pm

Beaumaris Castle

LL58 8AP

June 21st  7pm

Coed Y Brenin

(meet at visitor centre)

LL40 2HZ

June 22nd   7pm

Denbigh Castle

LL16 3NB

June 23rd  noon & 7pm

June 24th  2 & 7pm

Loggerheads Country Park

(meet at visitor centre)


June 25th   7pm

Tickets also bookable at site

Caerphilly Castle

CF83 1JD

June 28th  7pm

Strata Florida Abbey

SY25 6ES

June 29th   7pm

Dylan’s Restaurant, Criccieth

LL52 0HU

30th 7.30pm

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Hijinx Unity Festival 

Caernarfon Doc Fictoria

July 1st noon

July 2nd 2pm


Bellevue Park Newport

(meet at The Tea Rooms)

NP20 4EZ

July 5th   noon & 7pm

Tretower Court


July 6th  7pm

Blaise Castle Estate Dairy Farm

BS10 7QS

July 7th noon & 7pm

July 8th 2 & 7pm or use ticketsource

Tretower Court


July 9th 5.30pm

Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr

(meet at bandstand)

CF47 8RE

July 11th  noon & 7pm

Rhuddlan Castle

LL18 5AD

July 13th  7pm

July 14th  noon & 7pm

Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen

LL20 8DD

July 15th & 16th 7pm / 0800 1455779 or use ticketsource

Cilgerran Castle

SA43 2SF

July 19th  7pm

Stackpole, Nr Pembroke

(meet at Lodge Park Woods)

Carpark  postcode SA71 5DE

July 20th 7pm

July 21st noon & 7pm

July 22nd 2 & 7pm

Hilton Court, Haverfordwest

SA62 5AE

July 23rd   6.30pm

Beechenhurst Lodge, Forest of Dean

GL16 7EG

July 25th 7pm

Tintern Abbey

NP16 6SE

July 26th 7pm

Kidwelly Castle

SA17 5BQ

July 28th 7pm

Trelai Pavilion, Trelai Park, Ely, Cardiff


July 29th noon

The Kymin, Penarth

CF64 1JX

July 30th 4pm  02920 703200


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