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Actor Hermon Berhane: ‘I want to be a good role model for deaf artists’

Hermon Berhane Hermon Berhane

Performer and fashion blogger Hermon Berhane has never allowed being D/deaf to limit her ambitions. Berhane tells Giverny Masso about her latest role in Erin Siobhan Hutching’s autobiographical show People of the Eye, about a family with a deaf child…

How did you get into theatre?

I have always wanted to be an actor since I was young, but being D/deaf didn’t help my confidence to follow in that direction. I was travelling in South America when I realised I had to do something about this. I joined a drama short course in British Sign Language drama and Deafinitely Theatre’s Creative Hub training scheme, working in a variety of styles with as many different groups of people as I could find.

Tell me about your latest role in People of the Eye.

People of the Eye is personal, it tells the story of a family with a Deaf child and her ‘deaf’ world. It’s a story about family relationships and finding an identity. I play [writer/performer] Erin Siobhan Hutching’s sister Sarah and a lot of different characters. When I had read the whole script, I cried because I totally understand what she has been through. The production uses speech, sign language, captioning and video projecting. It’s creative and inclusive.

How did you go about creating the role?

Each actor went on a journey of exploration with our characters, creating the details about our profiles, timelines and images. What does our character do for a living? How long has he or she been doing it? Is it fulfilling, or is there some other lifelong dream our characters would like to pursue? How would our characters react? Then I had to learn the physical movement, making sure my voice is clear and loud and being expressive with my voice and my sign language.

As well as being an actor, you run a fashion blog called BeingHer with your twin sister. What inspired this?

We want to tell the world you should embrace your disability or flaws and not hide from them. We hope to challenge the attitude and views towards people with disabilities. We never allow being deaf to limit our ambition and disability doesn’t mean inability.

Do you think the theatre industry is inclusive enough of D/deaf artists?

The industry does okay but the quest for inclusion is a battle that must be addressed every day. There is much discussion about people with disabilities and not enough focus on their talent and skills. People with disabilities have few role models. I’m very pleased to hear the National Theatre and Spotlight have launched ProFile – an online video database of D/deaf and disabled actors.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To take up as many opportunities as I can, breaking the barrier in the mainstream film/theatre industries and to be a good role model for deaf people who want to achieve their dreams. I’d tell them they can do it, to trust their intuition, don’t let people hold them back, and take a risk.

CV: Hermon Berhane

Training: Deafinitely Creative Hub training scheme (2014-2016)
First professional role: Adela in The House of Bernarda Alba with Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and Graeae (2017)
Agent: Regan Management

The DH Ensemble’s production of People of the Eye runs at Harlow Playhouse on March 23, Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury on March 26, and at Nottingham Playhouse on April 7