Josie Rourke’s star-studded revival of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at new West End venue @sohoplace has announced that it will be providing captions for every single performance.
The decision to caption every show is rare outside of opera performances and non-English speaking productions.
As You Like It will feature two deaf actresses in the play – former EastEnders actress and Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis as Celia, and former Casualty star Gabriella Leon as Audrey, who are both making their West End debuts.
They are joined by a number of other stars including Leah Harvey (Foundation, The Wonderful World of Dissocia), Alfred Enoch (How To Get Away With Murder), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow) and Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife).
@sohoplace also confirmed that Rose Ayling-Ellis and other members of the company will use BSL (British Sign Language) as part of the performance, and that the captions are going to be incorporated into the production to create a fully inclusive experience for all.
This includes screens being set up on all four sides of the in-the-round theatre, so wherever the audience sits they will be able to see the screens and the action on stage.
Liam O’Dell on the popular blog for deaf people The Limping Chicken welcomed the news, although hoped that the captioning isn’t only because of the deaf actresses featured in the show. O’Dell said “Let this initiative from @sohoplace be a demonstration that so many people do not view captions as a ‘distraction’ when it comes to enjoying entertainment – an argument we’ve seen the institutionally audist cinema industry deploy in the past.”
Given that audiences watching TV are increasingly used to reading captions and subtitles, captioning theatre may become an increasingly common sight in theatres.
As You Like It will also run a BSL performance of the show on Thursday 26th January 2023.
It is not clear whether @sohoplace will start to caption all shows that run at this new venue.
As You Like It will run @sohoplace from 6 December 2022 to 28 January 2023, and feature designs by Rob Jones, lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by John Leonard and music by Michael Bruce.
Marvellous, which is currently playing at @sohoplace theatre until 26 November 2022.