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Nadia Nadarajah: actor

Nadia Nadarajah. Photo: Simon Kane Photography

Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah is fluent in eight languages – five sign languages and three written. She performs regularly with Deafinitely Theatre company, with whom she is currently playing the roles of Hippolyta and Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 

When did you start acting? 

I started in school, where I learnt via the oral method. But it was through dance and more physical, visual theatre that I started to really love it. I did a course at the International Visual Theatre in Paris, and also trained at the Deafinitely Hub in London, but my first professional job was in Love’s Labour’s Lost with Deafintely Theatre at the Globe in 2012 – not a bad place to start your career.

What kind of reactions do you get to Deafinitely Theatre? 

Our audiences interact well with our productions. You can see them focusing more on everything that they are seeing. It’s as if their eyes are growing wider as they take in all this visual information, which is great to see. We performed Tyrannosaurus Drip last year (based on the Julia Donaldson book) and to see families watching and enjoying the performance together was fantastic. There was music underscoring that piece, so members of our audience who can hear have access to the story and emotions via the music as well as the performances from the actors using sign language. It is amazing to see all these elements coming together and people enjoying the performance.

So do you get a wide variety of people watching your shows?

Absolutely. We have grandparents who are hearing bringing along deaf grandchildren, as well as deaf grandparents with their hearing grandchildren, all able to enjoy this performance together. Our deaf audience have a special relationship with us as they get to see their language, British Sign Language, being centre stage, but Deafinitely Theatre productions can be enjoyed by all.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt about acting?

One of the most important things is knowing the whole script and play, rather than just my part. In deaf culture, we look at each other and maintain eye contact in conversations but on a stage (especially as big as the Globe) you can’t be close to your fellow actors all the time – you have to use the space well. I have to know what the other actors will say without always looking at them, so that I can keep my relationship with the audience. I can’t hear them deliver their lines, so in rehearsal, I have to build up trust with the other actors so that I know what they will say and where they will be, so that I can respond appropriately. Another important lesson would be that too much movement whilst signing a line can lead to the meaning being lost. So it’s important to find the right balance between movement and delivering my dialogue. No-one ever said acting was easy.

What is your advice to aspiring actors, particularly those who are deaf or have a disability?

Keep going! No matter what barriers you may face, always believe in yourself that you can achieve whatever you want to. Grab any opportunity to perform that comes your way.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at London’s Globe Theatre until June 7

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