A happy day. And it’s not even 10am yet.


I get up, my head full of thoughts for the paper I’m writing for a forthcoming conference. I’m reflecting, amongst other things, on Sign Dance Theatre, featuring my old collaborator, the Deaf choreographer/dancer Denise Armstrong, who I have worked with since the late 80’s/early 90’s. My thoughts busy with language which is written (my job), then interpreted and transformed into theatricalised BSL (British Sign Language), gesture, and choreography (Denise’s job), I go down into the kitchen, where the unmistakeable words of Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days meet me. ‘This has been a happy day,’ Patricia Boyette is saying round the corner, unseen, at the table, completing, I realise, a word run of the second act, which she is currently learning by heart. Earlier, propped in bed and doing my morning emails, I heard a low humming rumble from below which I now recognise as her rehearsing the first act. It is a phenomenal feat, laying down such texts to memory, and yesterday at dinner when talking of neuroscience and enhancement – how just learning the alphabet makes physiological changes to the brain – Patricia laughed and wondered what Beckett was doing to her brain….








Patricia Boyette as Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, The Llanarth Group, for the Malta Theatre Festival.

Outside in the studio Phillip Zarrilli is encouraging Andy Crook to throw himself around – hurl himself to the floor – to cross the space, teetering, off-balance, as though pushed violently from behind. They are rehearsing Beckett’s Act Without Words One – Phillip, pulling the strings which reveal, offer, and withdraw the scissors, the flagon of water, the canopy of shade offered on Beckett’s arid island, calls it not directing, but torturing. Like Happy Days, and several other Beckett shorts including Ohio Impromptu and my favourites Not I, and Rockaby, they are in preparation for the Malta Theatre Festival.

Much as I adore Beckett, I retreat upstairs to my study, and interact online with my friend Peader Kirk and Mkultra, currently making an intervention in Athens during these historic days around the election: http://celebrationsathens.wordpress.com/onlinetoday/

Then, just as I am about to start work again on the conference paper, I see Hannah Ackroyd has nominated me for a blogging award. I pause, look over this brief morning, reflect on the people around me, their creativity and work, and think yes, indeed, this is a happy day. And it’s not even 10am yet.



Phillip Zarrilli and Eugenio Barba at Theatre Week at the Malta Arts Festival: http://www.labforculture.org/fr/groupes/public/labforculture/événements-et-actualité/101036

7 responses to “A happy day. And it’s not even 10am yet.

  1. There are too many words…they make shapes in the air…suffocating drowning ..I am stiffled by Jawing mouths ..
    Funny that Kaite .In Common Ground ,I choreographed at least 3 pieces of work which you wrote or co-wrote with David Bower ..same years exactly that you mention in your blog!
    ‘Answer Me with Silence’ 1997-98 ‘Borders and Freeways’ 2000
    You also helped us with Distant Sisters.
    For all these shows ,I was the choreographer ..Denise the signtheatre artist.
    I guess boundaries get blurred with collaboration.

    Just thought you’d forgotten….’A Feast Of Understandin’

    Thankyou Kaite ..you wrote for me some of the most beautiful words that
    I made. Into signdance choreography!

    Isolte * )

    • I’m delighted to say I was speaking about your work, acknowledging your innovative choreography and collaboration with many talented artists including Denise Armstrong, David Bower, Dave Praities, Bill Hopkinson, Christoffer de Graal, Laura Haughey, Kate Engineer, Stuart, to name a few, at a conference recently. I think it’s vital that this groundbreaking work is credited (and appropriate credits were given) and spoken/signed/written about. I wish the work and your back-catalogue as choreographer with CGSDT was more readily available – it deserves to be known, documented, and the innovation of those collaborations acknowledged and celebrated.

      • Yes …it would be good if it wasn’t all gone…
        But DAO and SHAPE have the main of the history and of-course sdc’s
        Shapes…in the air * )

      • It would be wonderful if you, as originator of so much work, could reflect and write about your process and history in sign dance theatre/ signdance choreography. I hope I’m not being naive in saying I feel there would be interest in your experience, expertise, and reflections. The work was made before documentation was common practice, as it is now – but there is so much to be remembered and shared – not least your approach and process in making this work. The performances may have been predominately ephemeral, but your skill and knowledge is still available, to be shared with others, were you able or interested in finding a way of approaching this.

      • I agree.
        This is what we have been doing to an extent at Bucks New University and with Tony Heaton SHAPE and NDACA.
        Pedro De Senna ,Brazillian writer,actor ,who has been collaborating with us has just published a chapter about our working methods in a book about theatre translation.
        So that’s a start ..he found your work during his research,and commented on the excellence of your writing.
        I have recently delivered a pretty substantial time-line for SDC to Allan Sutherland,so I’m starting to do some of these legacy exercizes and working with writers to get out the artistic ideas that were central to the development of the work is very important.
        I’m still performing all the time ,so I’m pretty busy ..
        I do my best * )
        I hope In Water I’m Weightless ‘ goes well ..sounds amazing !
        We will be at The London 2012 Fest Performing on-
        29th July.26th,31st Aug.2nd Sept
        4-8 sept
        So maybe see you round .

      • That’s fantastic news. I’d love to see anything you or colleagues write about your process – and translation (or its [im]possibility)is also something I’m engaged with, so please pass on the book references. It is so important this pioneering work is not forgotten – it’s an essential part of so many histories (performance, Deaf culture, intercultural practice, and on and on).

      • I definitely will .
        The artists’ name is Pedro De Senna.
        Buckinghamshire New University .we are company-in-residence there,and also teach the physc theatre and movement for actors and movement improvisation mudules..
        Its good being based somewhere we can collaborate with writers and academics at this point .
        Yes,ill send you the links and where you can get the book.
        * ) isolte

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