Kellie Tori, director of THRESHOLDtc latest offering Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, takes time out to chat about the play as well as her determination to make the Arts more accessible to the Deaf.

Eugene Ionesco is a Romanian playwright considered to be one of the foremost playwrights of the literary movement known as the Theatre of the Absurd. Ionesco's plays are described as depicting the solitude and insignificance of human existence. Because of its foundations, which are based on existential philosophy, Theater of the Absurd is certainly not for everyone. Those accustomed to more mainstream theatre will certainly do a lot of head scratching as the work and characters dive into a state of downright irrational and illogical conversations and behaviors all in pursuit of a higher knowledge pertaining to the human condition as it sits in this framework. Ionesco's play, The Bald Soprano, is no different, utilizing conventions found in absurdist's works it introduces us to the Smiths, the Martins and other extraneous characters and unveils the ultimate meaning of the phrase 'the bald soprano.'

Kellie Tori is very much conversant with the conventions of Ionesco's work as she outlines some of the major themes explored within the work:

"One of the fundamental themes explored in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and one which our production certainly focuses on, is the inadequacy of language to create and express human relationships in a real and meaningful way, and to communicate one’s owns feelings and desires.

Ionesco’s characters use a spattering of oxymorons, non sequiturs, clichés and nonsense repetition in their dialogue with one another, highlighting the way in which the construct of language limits and bounds us, as well as protecting us, preventing honest communication as often as enabling it. The characters, similarly to us all, revert to the truisms they have absorbed but not necessarily believed or even understood, at moments when they may feel uncomfortable or are struggling for control; and, eventually, the complete dissolution of their language renders them utterly impotent.

Another important theme explored throughout the play is the seemingly arbitrary nature of time. The omnipresent figure of the grandfather clock which presides over all and strikes ‘as often as it likes’ is a kind of absurdist God. It seems to inform the characters and rule their space, which is a theme as relevant today as in 1950 when the play premiered. At the end of the play, it begins again; it is doomed to an eternal loop. The Sisyphean myth of being doomed to repeat the same, futile actions reverberates through the lives of these characters."

Tori is also aware of the limitations, in terms of a complete and full experience, that some areas of the community may be experiencing when visiting a theatrical production. Tori is passionate in her view about Auslan Interpretation being incorporated into the theatrical programme. Auslan is the sign language of the Australian Deaf community and is, in fact, the primary or preferred language of the majority of Deaf people who have been severely or profoundly deaf since early childhood. Tori explains:

"I am extremely passionate about making the Arts accessible and I believe that providing Auslan Interpreters in the theatre is essential in making it accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

I come into contact with Auslan interpreters often through my day job at the Victorian College for the Deaf and have an enormous respect for their work. However, they are used very sparingly in the theatre due to the significant cost involved. Unfortunately, there is currently no funding specifically assigned to this purpose through Arts Victoria, making it particularly difficult for independent production companies to utilise their services.

Some theatre companies schedule captioned shows into their season; however, I believe there is a significant difference in communicating with the Deaf community in their first language, Auslan, as opposed to captioning a play in English. The effect of captioning on the audience is quite cold and clinical and can take the Deaf audience out of the action of the play; and frankly, can be inaccurate and misleading. However, the nature of Auslan, a language which utilizes all the elements of visual storytelling (facial expression, mime and role play) beautifully compliments the work of the actors in the theatre."

The Bald Soprano By Eugene Ionesco Directed by Kellie Tori will play at The Revolt Art Space
12 Elizabeth Street, Kensington from September 22 – October 8.

Production Dates: Thursday, 22/09/2011 Preview 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Friday, 23/09/2011 Opening 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Saturday, 24/09/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Sunday, 25/09/2011 Matinee 06:00 PM to 07:00 PM (Auslan Interpreted Performance) Tuesday, 27/09/2011 Tuesday 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Wednesday, 28/09/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Thursday, 29/09/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Friday, 30/09/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Saturday, 01/10/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Sunday, 02/10/2011 Matinee 06:00 PM to 07:00 PM (Auslan Interpreted Performance, Audio Descripted Performance) Tuesday, 04/10/2011 Tuesday 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM (Auslan Interpreted Performance) Wednesday, 05/10/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Thursday, 06/10/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Friday, 07/10/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM Saturday, 08/10/2011 Show 09:00 PM to 10:00 PM


*Photography: Luke Lennox