I was invited to teach Vamos Theatre’s Mask Performing for Students workshop to 25 deaf children in Longwill School for the Deaf, based in Birmingham.

Pupils at Longwill School have different levels of deafness, from moderate to profoundly deaf. Their main communication method is Total Communication which incorporates a range of approaches such as British Sign Language (BSL), Signed Support English (SSE), spoken English and lip reading too. This is where visual aids, visual language and visual empowerment are conveyed strongly to teach, lead and guide them in their lives.

This is where the mask teaching comes in, as it is most useful and helpful in teaching them about their body language, body abilities and body expressions. The usage of facial expressions is a strong part of BSL so the mask supported them to understand the physical expressions of a character.

As we approached using the mask, the group split in two groups and they discussed about the character of their mask, for example; age, background, emotions, how they walk and how they interact with each other and the audience.

The pupils learnt about the emotions and explored how they pose, move and express the character. It was a challenge for the pupils to think, experiment and decide on the character’s model.

The visual demonstration really engaged the pupils together and they thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. Every pupil had a go at wearing a mask and they were very confident in connecting with it.

The smiles and questioning inspired me and everyone else as a whole group. It was a blessing working with the deaf children.

The Mask Performing workshop is a fantastic tool to help deaf adults and children to build their confidence and to stretch out more ideas, concepts and analyse character. It is a very good acting technique that’s helps with looking more into physical abilities and movement, with limitless possibilities.

Mary Jayne Russell de Clifford

Thank you to Charlotte Firstbrook and everyone at Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham.