ERIN Hutching is breaking down barriers between hearing people and deaf people in the arts. By combining deaf culture and the hearing world, she is able to tell real, personal stories on stage to create thought-provoking performances.
Erin became involved with the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble at the end of 2014 after meeting director Jennifer Bates and actor Sophie Stone from the company. She had written the beginning of a script about a family’s experiences when their child was born deaf and they were generous enough to work on it with her.
‘In 2013, the company worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, exploring the use of British Sign Language in Shakespeare. An ensemble of deaf and hearing artists, it was the perfect company to help me develop my show.’ Erin said.
She added: ‘My aspirations for the company is to create high quality theatre for deaf, hearing and hard of hearing audience members on an equal basis and to bring it to the widest possible audience across the UK. I hope we all continue to be successful in our solo careers whilst also building the company by continuing to find exciting collaborators.’
Erin was inspired by her sister’s wedding to create the People of the Eye. She saw her sister’s deaf world (her friends) come together with her hearing world (work colleagues and extended family) with the ceremony and speeches in both spoken and sign languages. It made Erin think about using sign language in performance and creating an equal experience for deaf and hearing audiences.
The People of the Eye is a provocative piece that examines the realities of the people affected by deafness and celebrates the beauty of sign language and deaf culture. It’s a story about a family whose world and perspectives change, when a new family member is born deaf.
‘I hope the shows are breaking down barriers. We are often told by hearing people that they are inspired to start learning sign language after seeing our work and deaf people often say they feel very emotional seeing characters and stories they relate to on stage.’ Erin said.
She added: ‘The experience of seeing deaf actors and sign language on stage is enough to make people think twice about their preconceived ideas about deafness and disability.’
‘I am very inspired by the people I work with, particularly deaf actors like Sophie Stone and Hermon Berhane, who are just creating amazing work and challenging people’s perceptions. Especially at a time when we still have non-disabled actors playing disabled characters and being applauded for it and people still think a deaf or disabled actor can only play a deaf and disabled character.’ Erin said.
In the future, Erin sees herself touring the world with amazing accessible theatre and finally being able to take a show she’d created home to New Zealand, so her family can see it.
The People Of The Eye is going to be performed at the Harlow Playhouse on Friday, 23rd March 2018.