I went to the theatre a few weeks ago.

 Quite an ordinary statement do you think?

 To me, it doesn’t really register. I went to the theatre? Really? YES I DID!

 And guess what – I followed every single word! – That’s what is extraordinary. I still almost cannot believe it.

 The reason?

 I went to see The Lost Happy Endings presented by an organisation called Red Earth at the Mac Theatre in Birmingham. I have met with the two directors before, for something unrelated (and also very exciting) so I already knew that the show would be excellent. Not only are they extremely deaf aware, but they are two of the loveliest and warmest people I’ve ever met.

I also knew two of the actors in it, both of whom I already knew how to lip-read and follow due to previously spending time with them.

Emma Case, the star of the show who is someone I am proud to call a friend. Whose photography has always inspired me no end and her enthusiasm for an alternative fresh look on life and work, has always relit my fire whenever it’s been needed. Emma has helped me more than she knows, twice fairly recently, using her sign language skills to communicate for me during valuable photography workshops, and being someone whom I always know I can drop a line to, or catch up with her blog for friendly reassurance and happyness. I adore Emma and was thrilled that she was in this show.

Kiruna Stamell, I met whilst doing a 2 day workshop with Red Earth back in September. Out of the group, she immediately stood out to me as someone who I really aspire to be like someday. Kiruna is fantastic at what she does and extremely intelligent. I loved hearing what she had to say, forever coming out with words of wisdom, seeming incredibly wise for her years. She was so warm and encouraging towards me, and I really felt like I belonged in the group with her help. I was so excited to see her on stage!

 Both Emma and Kiruna light up on stage. They did not disappoint in the absolute slightest and I could talk about them all day. But I really cannot go much further without mentioning the other two key actors in the show, being Caroline Parker and Toyin Omari-Kinch. Both equally as fantastic on stage as Emma and Kiruna were. Perfectly cast for the parts they played, and ruddy marvellous at acting, and all four being gorgeous to look at to boot. I don’t know Caroline and Toyin personally, but I get the feeling that if I were to meet either of them for a coffee, (lets pretend I did know them for a minute) it’d be one of those meet ups when you’d walk away with a huge smile and cheeks hurting after a conversation with laughs a plenty.

 Am I gushing? I probably am. But in fact, even 3 weeks after I went to see the show, I am still in a bit of a dreamlike state when thinking back to it. Anyway, it’s my blog. I’m allowed to gush if I want to!

 When I booked the tickets, for the date I wanted, there were only the absolute front row tickets available left. At first, I felt a bit scared about this – for a start, how would Emma feel knowing that there were people she knew on the front row? The absolute, caught by the stage lights, look down and there we are, front row! Would she be a bit miffed at this? (Thankfully all I got was an “Eeek!” and a “Can’t wait to see you!”, phew). Additionally to this, I was a bit concerned about the stage being at my nose, and getting a crooked neck from looking up! As it happened, it couldn’t have been a more perfect spot. With nobody in front of me, and with the stage being at apt height to our seats, we literally saw everything, without any kind of squinting or crooking needed. This meant, lip reading had a fighting chance! Yay!

 Not only was the story being portrayed, heart-warming and instantly transfixing, but it was incredibly funny and addictive to watch, I could not take my eyes off the stage for a second while it was  was on. The four actors were excellent at their roles, brilliantly funny and provided me with proper laugh out loud moments, which as an adult watching a show predominantly with children in mind was ever so feel-good. My daughter, who is 5 and a half totally loved it too, she had a steady grin on her face throughout. Well, except for when Job, Emma’s character was upset, the grin turned into a face of genuine concern at that point!

 The fact that there were only four characters was a huge plus point for me as well. It was easy to follow, kept us on our toes as the characters themselves, played out characters (with me?) giving me apt chance to keep up with the lip patterns and characteristics. The stage was never too busy, and it was very easy to tell who I needed to look at. Each actor was not only bloody brilliant at their part (have I stressed this enough already?), but they were very easy to lip read, always facing the audience, always clearly spoken, and always entertaining with it. The story itself, perfect for the stage, the set, incredibly designed. The direction, fantastically executed and the portrayal of the book, simply wonderful.

 The best thing for me though? Was that the whole thing was signed. And by the characters themselves which was the key thing for me. There was no interpreter standing at the side, taking my attention away from the fun on the main stage. As fantastic as interpreters are, it can be a bit monotone compared to a colourful and dancing stage, and you can’t see the show itself if you’re following the interpreter all the time.

The other thing, was the it wasn’t a signed show. Everything was signed, don’t get me wrong, there was sign language throughout, and nothing was missed (there was actually a small part of the show that included dancing text across the top as part of a sequence which made a fantastic twist to the script, very much being part of the design) but the sign language wasn’t what the show was about. It wasn’t what came first in the description. It was so cleverly integrated within the performance that whether you needed the sign language or not, you would have felt the show wouldn’t be right without it. There would have been something missing if the sign language hadn’t been there. Now I have no idea, actually, if the original screenplay states there is to be sign or not (I am aware of Carol Ann Duffy, and her work but only in book form) but it works perfectly that there is sign there inbuilt as part of the performance. It’s neither patronising nor awkward, it just, well, goes.

 If you were hearing therefore not needing it as such to follow, it was part of the show in a way that wasn’t intrusive, inbuilt into the acting and the performance, adding spirit and visual effect  to what you were seeing. It taught children words in sign in a way that wouldn’t have felt like they were being actively taught, it added to the humour, it contributed to the wonderful quirkiness, it gave the show it’s magic.

 And for those who did need and appreciate the sign language within, it felt like a lifeline. I have never, before, been at the theatre and laughed at the same time as everybody else. I cannot explain just how wonderful that is to me. It gave me confidence to sit back and just enjoy a show, knowing that I was in tune with the rest of the audience (especially as I was on the front row!) and I didn’t look out of place as a stony figure of confusion. It gave me the experience of actually knowing what I was talking about when I enthused about the show afterwards, frantically rushing onto Twitter, Facebook and texting friends to say YOU MUST GO AND SEE IT!

But most importantly of all, to me, it gave me a conversation with my daughter that I will treasure for the rest of my life. A conversation that I relayed to my husband and my parents, a conversation, simply talking about the trip we had just made, and what we had just seen, that made me feel like I was a wonderful cool Mum, taking my daughter to the theatre. Just like every Mum should.