The Israeli Deaf and Blind theatre company

By Jessica Elgot, July 9, 2010

A unique Israeli theatre company with 11 deaf and blind actors have developed “new methods of communication” for their latest show, in London this week.

It is the first time Nalaga’at (Hebrew for "do touch"), a deafblind company from Jaffa, are performing ‘Not By Bread Alone’ in London, after two years in rehearsals. It will play at Finchley Arts Depot this week.

At the Jaffa centre, audience members can eat in a café where they are taught sign language to communicate with deaf waiters, and a restaurant where they are served in the dark by blind waiters. Both will operate at the Finchley venue.

The show, which features bread baked onstage, is performed by 11 actors aged 38 to 58 and their “translators”, who act as their eyes and ears. Many have Usher Syndrome, and were born deaf and later lost their sight. Their onstage helpers translate the actors’ thoughts in a mixture of Hebrew and English.

The audience smells the bread cooking as the actors tell their different stories, and at the end are invited on to the stage to taste the bread, and to try out their own ways of talking to the performers.

Adina Tal, the company’s able-bodied founder and director, said the company had to create new methods of communicating.

She said: "For a deaf blind person, you don’t exist. So for one we tap out Braille on his hands, for some we use touch on the hands or the face.”

Ms Tal had never previously worked with disabled actors before founding Nalaga’at. She said: “It’s a love story – I fell in love with the group. Before I started to work with them I had never met any one who was deaf and blind.

“I was always asked to do workshops with disabled people but I never really wanted to, I would always say “after the holidays” – as you know, for Jews and Israelis, it’s never after the holidays. But I was finally persuaded."

She added: “It’s a very personal show, the different scenes are the real dreams and experiences of the actors.
“One of our actors, who had worked with us for a year died before the show was performed. His dream was to go to Italy, and that is a scene in the play. It was very hard but we felt it was very important to build the scene for him.”

One of the actors Bat Sheva Rabansari is the mother of three healthy sons, one who is a soldier in the IDF. She said: "I always dreamed to be an actress, but I never thought I could be. But now I am a real actress, and I am so happy. Two years ago, we were only a drama group."

Once the London run is finished, the group will return to Israel where a new play, Prince Idik, will begin at the end of July.

Last updated: 10:41am, July 9 2010