Sound and silence are hugely significant to writer and performer Sophie Woolley. Born a hearing child to a deaf mother, she lost her own hearing, gradually over a 20-year period, until a cochlear implant reintroduced her into the hearing community.
In Augmented, she shares her experience of the hearing and the D/deaf worlds in a show made for an audience that will often include both. Deftly directed by Rachel Bagshaw and supported by theatre company Told by an Idiot, Woolley’s solo show balances a strong sense of what is gained and what is lost in both worlds.
Every performance is captioned, audio-described and as relaxed as the service dog curled up in the aisle. Adrienne Quartly’s soundscape of music, recordings and effects works superbly as do Joshua Pharo’s immaculately timed projections of the whole text on the slatted back wall of the set by co-designers Laura Hopkins and Khadija Raza.
In one scene of insightful role reversal, Woolley tells us she wants to dance and we watch in silence as she gyrates to the sound of her own breathing, while she listens to the music streaming directly into her head via the implant. In another, she describes how someone in the park “jogs through” the signed conversation she is having with her mother.
These days she describes herself as a deaf cyborg because she views the implant as an augmentation rather than a miracle cure and ponders on the futuristic world she represents. It’s a fascinating journey told with humour, honesty and creative use of design and technology.