REVIEW: The Lighthouse @ Arc

Posted on March 22nd 2018 by Whats on Northeast

Review by Gemma Corking

At the moment, revolution seems to be around every corner whether it’s Me Too, Black Lives Matter or the March for Our Lives movement, there is a real push for change. However, in mainstream media, disability discrimination is not making headlines, despite there being a very real problem. This is a conversation that needs to be had, and Lighthouse highlights this perfectly.

As the final instalment of the three-year Cultural Shift programme of artistic activity led by disabled people at Arc, Lighthouse focuses on the treatment of d/Deaf people in modern day society. The entire play is performed by two d/Deaf actors and an interpreter who switch between BSL and spoken word. This is impressive to see and has made the play accessible to a whole new audience, which is so important as the arts should be accessible to all, whether you’re an audience member or a performer. Pip and Mona explore the dynamic of mother and daughter, unearth d/Deaf heroines of the past and showcase exactly why disability or gender should not define anyone.

One of the most powerful scenes shows Pip being sent away to a school for d/Deaf children in order to escape the ridicule of her primary school class. Instead of it being the safe sanctuary that Mona probably imagined for her daughter, we see Pip forced to sit on her hands and ‘read my lips’ which is very uncomfortable to watch. Without BSL how can a d/Deaf child communicate their feelings and be understood, especially if that has been their main form of communication? At the time, I knew what I was seeing was horrible, but the penny didn’t drop until the next day when I had had time to reflect on the performance, and that particular scene, which was less than 5 minutes long kept coming back to me. As a society, we tend to put our blinkers on when it comes to something that doesn’t affect us, but Lighthouse pushes the cruelty that happens, in a way that’s difficult to ignore.

When asked how I found Lighthouse I couldn’t formulate succinct sentences, mainly because I had conflicting thoughts about my experience. At times, the performance didn’t flow and it was quite easy to lose track of what was happening.  This is mainly down to the actual script and the small theatre space – there is no room to come off stage and back on as another character, so a lot of the confusion stemmed from there. However, my overriding impression is that I loved the story, and the fact that it made me go away and really think about the subject matter is what theatre is about. It is supposed to start a conversation, and Lighthouse certainly will.

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