Stagetext, a captioning service for theatre-goers, debuts to Irish audiences this month at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. This service, which in 2008 will expand across Ireland, was devised in 2000 in the UK by three deaf theatre fans who were frustrated at missing out on the performing arts. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing The Playboy of the Western World with captions. In the 1980s, my Leaving Certificate English class spent an afternoon at the Abbey, minus one person. Reason: lip-reading actors on stage is near-impossible and it’d have been a sheer waste of time.
Exactly twenty years later, the prospect of accessing the play at the same venue is ironic. What’s important however, is the assistance Stagetext will give deaf students and children. Plays on the school curriculum will become accessible to pupils of all ages and characters brought to life. As a result, the students are likely to gain a better understanding of the plays. It’s a whole new era in accessible theatre and the Stagetext founders must be applauded for their innovation.