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Deaf Theatre

Hearing-impaired actors touch audiences with the language of the heart

At Moscow’s Nedoslov Theatre, deaf and hard-of-hearing actors put on plays in sign language. The theatre was set up to give acting opportunities to graduates of the Russian State Specialized Institute of Arts, which is the only institution in the world to prepare actors with hearing difficulties.

There, they learn to translate well-known stories or Shakespearean sonnets into gestures, speaking in the wordless but expressive language of the body. When on stage, they have special ways of communicating with each other and catching the beat of music they can’t hear but can dance to.

RTD follows the actors inside and outside the theatre. Some work mundane jobs in factories. Others have ventured into performing arts that would seem off limits, such as the hip hop dancer who ‘pops’ in street dance battles to the twins belting out pop ballads in sign language before adoring female fans.

Their teachers, directors and coaches explain the role words play in deaf people’s lives, and how art gives them the confidence to take on the wider world. The shows that students and graduates put on touch mixed deaf and hearing audiences because they use the only language everyone can understand, that of the heart.