Guildford show explores the experience of a deaf child in a hearing world

Little Bear can’t hear Dad Bear calling, but feels the floor vibrate with heavy footsteps... Little Bear can’t catch the funny joke at school when friends are laughing but feels the crunch of snow on frozen pavements.
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The play is Raymond Antrobus’ Can Bears Ski, a fun piece which also comes with important messages, courtesy of The Pied Piper Theatre Company and Deafinitely Theatre, heading to The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford on Saturday, January 27 at 11am, 2pm and 4pm and Shoreham’s Ropetackle Arts Centre on Sunday, January 28 at 11am and 2.30pm.

The story draws on the writer’s own experience as a deaf child in a hearing world with a set inspired by Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. It will be brought to life on stage with puppetry, music, British Sign Language and spoken English in a world première production for hearing and deaf young people aged three and up and their families.

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Stefan Stuart, who plays Dad Bear in the show, says: “The play is absolutely a lot of fun not only for us actors but also for the people watching it. It is extremely visual and we have an ensemble cast and there is a lot going on but the story follows the hearing journey of Little Bear. In the beginning of the play Little Bear is finding certain aspects of life difficult and we realise that they are hard of hearing or maybe deaf and we take Little Bear to the audiologist and then we make changes to our lives accordingly. It looks at the blueprint of what to do.

Company of Can Bears Ski (contributed pic)Company of Can Bears Ski (contributed pic)
Company of Can Bears Ski (contributed pic)

“Some people think that deafness is when you just cannot hear but in fact there are lots of colours in between. With Little Bear what happens is that Dad Bear and Teacher Bear notice that there is something that is not quite right. They notice moments when Little Bear is not realising what is being said and so Little Bear is taken to the audiologist but the really interesting thing is that the audience who are not struggling with hearing get to experience what it is like for Little Bear because sometimes we will muffle the lines so that they get that experience.

“Dad Bear has a really interesting journey too. In the beginning Dad Bear can be a little annoyed by Little Bear’s inability to wake up in time. There's a big alarm clock going off! And sometimes Dad Bear can be a little bit annoyed when Little Bear is not getting what he is saying but going to the audiologist, once they realise there is a problem, is a big eye opener for Dad Bear. He realises not only that Little Bear is deaf but actually there are so many resources out there that they can draw on.

“By the end Little Bear is very happy but I'd say that Little Bear is very happy throughout but definitely the diagnosis brings a closer relationship between Little Bear and Dad Bear and Dad Bear sings a song about trying harder from this moment and doing everything he can to facilitate.

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“What the show is saying is that in the beginning it can be very easy to look at children's behaviour and label them as naughty or not listening and I think that awareness is the first stage. And then after the diagnosis it is a question of what you can do and the resources that there are. In our show Little Bear gets hearing aids and that works for some people but doesn't work for others but also Little Bear goes through British Sign Language lessons.”