Arts & Culture

Review: Gold Dust

Tuesday 29 May
Review: Gold Dust

Lizzie Ward - May 29 at 9:30 AM

Written by Andrew Muir and directed by Paula Garfield, Gold Dust is an affecting and thoughtful play about the relationship between a hearing son and a Deaf father, as well as the relationship between the deaf and hearing world. As we were ushered into the dark auditorium, I didn’t know what to expect. The set was sparse yet symbolic and intimate. It was opening night, and the house was full to the brim in the Soho Theatre’s Studio.

Deafinitely Theatre are renowned for producing plays that explore the issues surrounding being a deaf person in a hearing world. Often, they explore hot topics within the deaf community and society at large. My introduction to Deafinitely was 4play in 2011, four plays by the winners of their Deafinitely Creative competition at London’s Drill Hall. Their work showcases many different talents in theatre – bringing together people with a passion for theatre and original writing.

Gold Dust begins with the hearing son, Sam, walking around his father’s room. We become aware that his father has recently died and he is carrying his father’s ashes in a tin. His father then springs out of bed, and they begin a long, entertaining conversation about their relationship, about the father, George, and his experiences growing up as a Deaf person in the Black Country.

What I found engaging was how accessible it was – Sam speaks and signs at the same time, both as part of his character and for the hearing members of the audience – and George signs away, trying to get his son to understand him. Their relationship is fraught with misunderstanding; George loves his son but his hearing son can’t understand his outlook on life, his culture as a Deaf person. Sam feels neglected and alienated, because he can’t understand his father’s language and way of expressing himself.

George tells many stories of his life – as a child being mainstreamed and forced to use his voice and not BSL, during the war and then working as a jeweller in Birmingham. The stories resonated through history, the stories of deaf people and Deaf culture in the Black Country. The actor playing George was hilarious. Often, the conversation would have the audience roaring with laughter. The dialogue never seemed stilted or staged; it felt natural and had believable moments of shared empathy and argument. The relationship developed and they tried to build their bridges with shared stories.

This play built upon my knowledge of Deaf history and culture, and gave me a deeper understanding of deaf identity, as an oral deaf person. Towards the end of the play, the atmosphere shifts to the present, with the arrival of another character, further exploring issues of identity and relationships between deaf and hearing people, identity, fathers and sons. The ending was beautiful and haunting – an image that will stay with me for years to come.

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