Lots of theatres have productions that have signing or subtitles for deaf people but Doncaster has what it believes is the first pantomime with a leading character using sign language.
Becky Barry plays Fairy Fingers in Jack and the Beanstalk at Cast. Actor and musician Becky is also a British sign language (BSL) interpreter.
Show director and co-writer, Matthew Bugg, said that the response has been incredible.
“What people are used to is someone at the side of the stage, usually in a black polo neck jumper, who is signing.
“That’s not what we’re doing, she’s got her own character.
“She’s in every single scene, signing, and sometimes she is saying what somebody else is thinking and also leading the story herself. Those are extraordinary bits for hearing audiences, such as when she is telling Jack what he has to do next.
“The audience are reading all the signs that Fairy Fingers is making and interpreting what she is saying and telling that back to Jack. People are totally understanding it.”
Other characters use some signs but it won’t always be obvious to a hearing audience, Matthew said, and everyone signs in the big finale number.
Becky helped to develop the script and came up with lots of ideas.
The show is obviously popular with deaf audiences, who have been coming from all over the country, but Matthew said it still appeals to everyone.
“Having a BSL signer in every single performance is just reaching out to audiences in a totally new way. The hearing audiences are saying ‘good on you’.”
He said he watched fascinated as one little deaf girl with a hearing family was completely involved in the show, excitedly telling her family what Fairy Fingers was telling her.
‘Matthew said that he was really pleased to be able to develop the project and that the theatre said yes straightaway.’
Matthew thought it was important as Doncaster has a large deaf community because of Doncaster School for the Deaf and the communication Specialist College.
He added: “It’s just that thing about coming together at Christmas. The people of Doncaster are also seeing they are at the cutting edge of something no-one else has done.
“They’re not used to that as an experience. They’re very proud and that’s just fantastic.”