Television audiences are familiar with the colourful subtitles which help thousands of viewers follow their favourite dramas, comedies and news programmes. However, not many are aware that this vital service has made its way to the stage. Deaf and hard of hearing audiences are able to enjoy the experience through live captions which stop plays being seen but not heard.
In captioned performance's the dialogue scrolls across a screen placed close to the stage, not only providing dialogue but also sound effects, song lyrics and musical moods. At the Octagon Theatre in Bolton the task of delivering subtitles for each production lies in the hands of captioner Claire McIntyre.
As part of Captioning Awareness Week, she is keen to make more people aware that enjoyment of the theatre does not have to end when hearing deteriorates. She said: "Captioning helps us reach out to much wider sections of the community and can a help a number of different spectators. "For those who are hard of hearing, or who can't hear it, means you don't have to stop coming to the theatre.
"There are sign language performances but only a very small percentage of people use sign language. Not all the audience are deaf from birth, but it happened in later life so they have not had time to learn signing. For them captions and text are really helpful.
"It also has a wider reach in the Octagon because the theatre's 'in the round' setting means the actors' backs are sometimes turn on the audience, so those who get help through lip reading miss out." To be able to provide captions for just one production Miss McIntyre writes up the lines from the rehearsal script into the theatre's captioning software, StageText.
She will also watch the production two to three times in order to get to grips with how the cast read lines, including the length of pauses. But it is not just scripted lines, as labels have to be made for the music by its mood and genre, such as 'haunting music', or sound effects, such as 'telephone rings'.