George Orwell, Sign Language and Hip-Hop

A photo taken from a low angle looking up to Ariel Ching-Wai and Billy Read who are stood on the top of metal stairs next to a white washed brick wall with CCTV cameras on them looking left and right. Billy is wearing white trainers with black jeans and a white top with a black and white checked shirt over it. Ariel is wearing black trainers with blue ripped jeans and a white top.
Billy Read and Ariel in 'Somebody's Watching Me.' Photo by Graeme Braidwood.

Project Manager Clara Giraud sat down with Billy Read to discuss his Unlimited International Research and Development Commission ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ (in collaboration with Ariel). Inspired by George Orwell’s groundbreaking 1984, the choreographic work explores themes of surveillance and what it could mean to be deaf in a dystopian world. Here Billy talks about the artists he’s collaborating with, and some of the challenges he faces in creating something new and different compared with his previous work.

What is your project about?

My project is about two young deaf citizens growing up in a futuristic dystopian society, in a world of surveillance where the population is controlled by soundwaves. Being deaf means being immune from this method of control, so they must accept implants and be forced to give up their identities.

Who have you been working with, and where?

I’ve been working with a group of fantastic artists all providing me and my collaborative partner with their expertise. We have our dramaturgist Benji Reid and scriptwriter Tina Barnes. Adam Rutherford is our assistant choreographer, and also Claire Marshall of mac Birmingham is the producer on the project. Deaf Explorer’s Alan McLean and Rachael Veazey have been very supportive from the start, providing management and all our access needs.

What creative ideas, themes and narratives have you been exploring?

We explored the themes of ‘Surveillance’ and Orwell’s 1984. We have been combining sign language, dance, mime, acting and visual vernacular in our work. Along with this theme, we have been focusing on a relationship between two main characters – two deaf individuals with different experiences and opinions of being deaf, and they clash with their differences.

What areas of the project are most challenging for you at this stage?

The most challenging would be combining the different methods of performance to create something new and different. The whole process is a learning experience for us all, and so we are changing the way we approach our work and schedule as we go along, to find the most effective way to use our time.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome of everything we’ve been working on in September, and sharing it with other artists and industry professionals.

Thanks Billy.

Curious? Find out about the artistic process and how ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ is coming together by reading Billy’s blog here

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