Accessible performance film rebels against ‘What you’re told deafness is’

Not Sorry, a film by Stephanie Back, explores her experience of becoming Deaf at 15 and ‘rebirth’ after discovering British Sign Language

Deaf actress Stephanie Back performing in 'Not Sorry' film.
‘Not Sorry’ was directed by Elise Davison. Credit: Stephanie Back, Alistair Daly 

A new performance film about an actress’ experience of becoming Deaf at 15 and her “rebirth” after learning British Sign Language (BSL), premieres online this month.

Not Sorry, featuring Welsh language learner, Stephanie Back from Taking Flight theatre company, explores her discovery of BSL and subsequent “breaking free” from society’s negative perceptions of deafness.

The film was created by Taking Flight, a Deaf-inclusive theatre company, and Artes Mundi, a visual arts organisation in Wales. It will be available to watch for free on their websites between 12 November – 12 December, 2021 and will be fully accessible to people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Stephanie Back performing in 'Not Sorry'.
Artes Mundi brings international art to Wales. Credit: Stephanie Back, Alistair Daly 

There are 575,000 people with hearing loss in Wales, according to a 2020 report from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

However, Stephanie feels this group is not catered for by the Welsh theatre scene.

In 2019, she established the only youth theatre group for actors who are Deaf or hard of hearing in Wales. While she is proud of this achievement, it is also representative of the lack of accessible training opportunities.

“If a young Deaf or disabled person cannot get into youth theatres, where is their passion going to ignite?” she asked.

For Stephanie, theatre has been an important medium to express her identity as a Deaf person and a BSL user. Not Sorry will reflect the beautiful, rich culture of deafness and what BSL means to her as a “language without barriers.”

She has enjoyed the opportunity to contradict traditional expectations of deafness.

She said, “When I first went Deaf, all I was given was an audiogram that I had ‘failed’. It told me nothing of my identity as a Deaf person.

“This piece gave me the opportunity to explore breaking free from what you’re told deafness is.”

Not all Deaf people use BSL

There are many different methods of communication. It is important to establish what would work best for the person you are talking to.

The British Deaf Association gives some simple tips on how to communicate with a Deaf person when you first meet them:

  • Wait until the person is looking at you before you attempt to communicate
  • Speak clearly and in full sentences
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself
  • Don’t exaggerate your mouth movements
  • Make eye contact and don’t cover your face or mouth
  • Don’t stand with a light or window at your back
  • Use body language and gestures where appropriate
  • If you’re really stuck, you can always write something down