Who is oppressed? I'm not. Those who live in the past tend to remain there. Will the deaf community ever move forward while making a celebration of oppression that took place via the Egyptians 1,000s of years ago? or attacking a man who has been dead for years because he dared to promote speaking? We urge deaf to enter the 20th even 21stc for the real good of our future deaf.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the latest Horrible Histories, Dreadful Deaf is another triumph; after all, Birmingham Stage Company has cornered the market in the stage versions of a franchise that mixes facts with a heavy dose of flagellants and flatulence. Here, teaming up with Deafinitely Theatre, they have produced an hour's trawl through the history of Deafness, pairing fascinating tales with giggles aplenty.
Did you know that in 1000 BC Egyptian Hebrew law denied deaf people rights to be married or have children? Or that their attempted cure involved goat's urine being poured directly into the ear? How about that Greek philosopher and all-around modern thinker Aristotle, who claimed that ‘"Deaf are born incapable of reason". On and on it goes, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, campaigned for banning sign language and promoting oralism but signed his dying words. Horrible Histories has always enjoyed telling the bleak, but what this shows is that those born deaf have faced centuries of being oppressed.
Thankfully as we begin to shift into more modern history, heroes do begin to emerge. There is Thomas Brainwood, founder of the first school for deaf children in Edinburgh in the 1760s or Helen Watts, a suffragette who campaigned so fervently from a gaol cell in Reading that she was released early for fear of fatality. In a nice touch in Paul Burgess' compact set, modern heroes from the deaf community are projected before and after, a mix of sportsmen and women, doctors and teachers. It's a sign of how far things have come and also a telling indictment of how much further things still need to shift. After all, there were very few instantly recognisable faces on the list, a sign that barriers are still up for this community to rise to the very top.