I have had a blast performing “Down the Rabbit Hole” on tour. The storybook opera has been brought to life with a fantastic team, and today, I would like to share with you some information about our spectacular cast.
George Todică undertook the role of “Music Director and Collaborative Pianist.”George creates new atmospheres during the opera, highlights key visual moments and develops the story by performing music on the piano, chimes and glockenspiel. George wears many hats in this production (both figuratively and literally!) – he provides a voice-over for the Caterpillar. He appears onstage as the King of Hearts and the Mad Hatter in a black top hat with a curly green wig.
Born in Iasi, Romania, George started his formal musical training at age 6; he completed an Artist Diploma from The Royal College of Music, London, in 2019. Previously graduating with a First Class Bachelor of Music Degree and a Masters of Music in 2017 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is a classical pianist and has won many competitions and performed in prestigious venues around the World. Read more at https://www.georgetodica.com/
Zoë McWhinney undertook the roles of Actor and Collaborator in this production. Once I had written the libretto and sketched out illustrations of the songs and arias, Zoë used her expertise in British Sign Language (BSL) as a native signer and poet to create the translation, which we recorded together on Zoom. During the live performance, Zoë performs several characters: Margaret (Alice’s sister), the White Rabbit, Alice’s Shadow, the Crocodile, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts. Zoë masterfully portrays these characters by using different facial expressions, physical mannerisms and specific signs to give each character an individual personality and accent.
Born in London. Zoë McWhinney is a Visual Vernacular performer and a poet in BSL. As a Deaf person and native BSL signer, she works as a freelance theatre maker, consultant and workshop facilitator in BSL storytelling, poetry and Deaf culture. She is an alumnus (‘20) of Ecole Theatrale Universelle, an actress on stages and screens. She also works as an in-vision translator.
Naomi Gray performs the role of Integrated Actor Interpreter. I wanted “Down the Rabbit Hole” accessible to children and families across the hearing spectrum. Naomi provided the BSL translation and voice-over during the scenes to ensure this happens,. Sometimes she would sign/speak on behalf of another character in the space; at other times, she would be a signing character in Wonderland. Naomi also helped ensure that the signing and spoken dialogue worked harmoniously. For example, we would sometimes opt to use Sign Support English (SSE) so that the lip pattern follows the spoken text and, at other times, change the spoken script to follow BSL. Naomi performs several characters: Narrator, Dormouse; Cake; and the Card.
After a decade of working with the London d/Deaf community, Naomi qualified as a BSL/English Interpreter in 2019. Passionate about performing, she recently gained a BA Hons in Acting. She has been involved in various deaf-accessible theatres over recent years, including Robin Hood & The Babes In The Wood, CAST Doncaster. / Mirror Mirror, Red Earth Theatre Co. / Horrible Histories: The Dreadful Deaf, Deafinitely Theatre. NAOMI GRAY (spotlight.com)
Charlotte Hoather, alongside the cast, I perform the role of Alice. I sing, act, sign and speak. I have taken sign language lessons online with a deaf teacher called Alesia at DMCS since May 2021 after taking a basic online course before then. It has been a wonderful challenge to combine BSL with music, and I have loved every minute. I was spurred on to keep exploring this skill after a year five student at Frank Barnes School for Deaf on Wednesday morning signed: “Thank you for making the opera accessible and for using British Sign Language in the creative storytelling. It meant we could get fully involved too.” This feedback and more like it has encouraged me to keep learning BSL and see how I can make music more accessible in the future. Some children have creatively suggested what we could do next as they’d like to see more.
I recently read on the RNID website that there are 12 million adults with hearing loss greater than 25 dBHL. This is equivalent to one in five adults.
Next week, I will discuss the operational and management people behind the scenes who worked out the logistics from booklet delivery to set get-in and get-out, stage timings, costume changes and repairs, cleaning and sanitising all the things that helped to bring the production to life safely.