Interview with Theatre Interpreter / Actor Becky Allen

Sarah: I’m here at the RSC – the Royal Shakespeare Company I was here recently to watch The Jew of Malta and in that performance there was a lady who was both interpreter and actor – and she’s here with me today
Hello! Let me introduce you to Becky Allen I wanted to ask a bit more about her background and how she got involved with theatre Lovely to see you again Becky: Thank you. Sarah: It’s a lovely day too, we’re into October now the Autumn colours are starting to appear Becky: Yes all the different colours are beautiful Sarah: So I wanted to ask how and why did you get involved with learning BSL? Becky:It’s a long story! Back when I was 19 I was working at a college as a Learning Assistant for students with learning difficulties I was at work one day and saw a group of Deaf people signing and I thought it looked really interesting I tried to sign a little bit so that I could say ‘Hello, how are you?’ But it got me thinking, I really liked the language and it felt quite natural. I looked around for a Level 1 course Back then I was living in Cornwall
Sarah:Oh wow, Cornwall, right in the south-west! There’s not many BSL users down there!? Becky: Yes, you’re right! But I did eventually find a Level 1 class to join and started learning properly But after finishing that there was no where nearby to do Level 2. So I had to join a class in Devon.
Sarah: Wow that’s quite a distance So you had to travel there every week? Becky: Yes! Every week I travelled to my Level 2 class and when that was finished I looked for a Level 3 But there weren’t any! So I just started trying to use it; translating things and trying to understand Sarah: Ah, through meeting other people? Becky: Yes, back there there was quite a big Deaf community and only a couple of interpreters Luckily now there’s quite a few more! After that, in around 2006 I was asked to be involved with a London-based theatre tour I took the offer and I moved to London and finally had the chance to continue learning and do NVQ Level 3 I also did my NVQ Level 4 there too After that I decided I wanted to get fully qualified and did the post graduate course at SLI. Sarah: was it good?
Becky: I loved it. I became fully qualified back in 2011 Sarah: 2011, so four years ago! Sarah: Do you enjoy it? Becky: I love it, absolutely love it. Every day is something different and I never stop learning Sarah: What about the acting side; did you train to become a qualified actor? Becky: Growing up I was always involved in theatre, I always loved it. And I thought back then that I wanted to be an actor one day but I was seeing a lot of female actors quitting because the work being offered to them was dwindling, so I’d leave and wait until I was around 40 to join and then get into acting properly. However, when I went on tour with that London group one of the deaf actors broke their elbow! They needed someone to take her place and they asked me if I could do it. I said yeah, that’s fine and swapped so that I was now in the tour. While doing that an agent saw me and asked if I wanted to be involved with their agency to get more work And I said ‘Sure… okay…’ And the lady I replaced who broke her elbow – we’re still really good friends today! Sarah: So you were definitely in the right place at the right time? Becky: Yeah, strange how these things happen! Sarah: It’s marvellous! So you’ve told me a bit about getting into theatre and BSL but what about your role in the recent play here, how did that come about? Becky: Earlier this year, back in January I think, the RSC office called me to ask if I wanted to be involved with The Jew of Malta. Yes please! I asked about the rehearsals and was it possible I could be involved with that They were rehearsing from February to around April I think it was, maybe they start in January actually but it was around that time anyway. I also knew I’d be interpreting it on 8th Sept; plenty of time to practice. In February I went for a day to have a look and meet the people involved with the show After that I started working on bits of translation at home, preparing little bits at a time. I also had a DVD recording of the play that they gave me.
Sarah: Of their rehearsals? Becky: It actually once they’d started performing it here, that was filmed and sent to me. Sarah: Ah! That’s really helpful. Sarah: That’s really interesting, the different ways of preparing for it. Becky: Also the Director and Assistant Director were a huge help I would email them and say, this word on page whatever – what does that mean!? Or what do these lines mean? Or when the actor is giving this speech, what’s going on there, what are they thinking about? I wanted to make sure that what they were thinking matched with what I thought – actually to make sure I was matching them! I felt strongly that the Deaf audience were there to see the RSC – they’re not paying to watch me! I wanted to make sure I matched the actors style and thoughts as much as I possibly could. Sarah: So it was worth all the hard work and I’m sure you’ll just keep getting better and better. I really enjoyed it so well done! Recently we’ve seen more of integrated theatre with interpreters more involved instead of being stuck at the end of the stage, what are your thoughts on that? Becky: I really love it, I feel it becomes more equal. I think the theatre allows some freedom, to play around and try things out. And it’s important that the Deaf and hearing audience members are equal Sarah: So it’s a chance to try some creative ideas and see what happens. Becky: Yes. But I have to say for The Jew of Malta, the directors, actors – everyone has been so supportive. They were all so open minded and definitely had open hearts too! Sarah: Aww, those minds and hearts opening up with your influence to allow Deaf people in. Becky: Now, I know The Jew of Malta has finished but the actors will have that knowledge of access for Deaf people and remind other places too. Hopefully they’ll be spreading the word Sarah: Looking back on it now, how do you feel about it; did you think it went really well? Becky: While interpreting it, I was focussed so much on listening to the actors and remembering the translations. So on the night I was too focussed to think about it, but looking back I think, Wow! That happened! About three days after it it suddenly dawned on me that I’d performed here in Stratford and I was thinking ‘Oh my God!’ Sarah: When watching the play, I noticed the main actor Jasper Britton was brilliant, his way of including you and calling you to him. Becky: He was so, so lovely to me, amazingly generous. He actually said to the director, ‘I want Becky during my monologues’ He thought it would be a good way of sharing his thoughts and really used it well. He was brilliant. I really think that added another layer to the character Sarah: After the show, how did you feel about the feedback and comments? Becky: I was actually tearing-up! I couldn’t believe it. For the Q&A part I went to take a seat and had no idea what to expect, I could be hugely criticised – I had to try to prepare myself that might happen too. Then I saw your face beaming and Simon’s face and I thought ‘Phew, they liked it’. Then I was looking around to see if anyone would say anymore! My Mum and Dad were there too. Sarah: Aww lovely – your parents were there too! Have they been to see you before? Becky: Yes, but they’ve rarely seen me signing so I think Mum was a bit like ‘Oh you can sign!’ Yes Mum I can! Sarah: Had your parents travelled from Cornwall? Becky: Yeah! Sarah: So do you think the RSC will be having interpreters involved more in the future? Becky: Yes, the next play will be Wendy & Peter Pan on 20th January, 7.15pm. Sarah: I’ll be there! Becky: The interpreter for that one is a lovely lady called Clare Edwards She’s the interpreter who did the Q&A session at the last play Sarah: Oh yeah, I remember her! Becky: She’s great! She’s so lovely, and she helped me so much. On the day of the play we had a technical rehearsal and Clare came to check she could see me and was so supportive. Sarah: Like a co-worker? Becky: Sort of. Just making sure that the audience could see me from different places. One problem I did have when preparing was I asked everyone for their sign for ‘Malta’ and no one knew! There was nothing on the Internet either And that day, Clare said to me – I’ve seen this sign for Malta, so I could include that in my performance. Sarah: Sometimes looking through a script on your own is really complicated, it really helps to have others to work with. Becky: Two heads are better than one! Sarah: Or maybe 4 or 5! Sarah: So here at the RSC they’ve got a programme of what’s on from November to January and like Becky said the next performance will be Wendy & Peter Pan On the back they’ve got the dates of different performances. Captioned performances are on:
Wednesday 16 December (7.15pm) and
Friday 29 January 2016 (7.15pm) The signed performance will be on January 20th 2016 (7.15pm) I hope to see you all here!
Thanks Becky! Becky: Thank you!

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