13 May 2021

A chat with BSL Interpreter Jacqui Beckford

Jacqui Beckford is a British Sign Language interpreter with over 25 years experience interpreting theatre plus 11 years work as an in-vision interpreter in TV Broadcast. Jacqui has worked with us before on These Rooms (2018) and The Pink Pink Vogue Ball (2019) and are thrilled to be welcoming her back to interpret The Language of Kindness by Wayward Productions on 9 June. We had a chat with her about her career and signing live and recorded events.

How do you prepare/rehearse for signing a show?  

Depending upon the nature of the show I might just be on the side downstage (not my preferred way of working). If I am integral to the performance as a character – in a 4 week rehearsal process. If there were budgetary constraints I would attend a minimum of 2 days rehearsals to be blocked in. Aside from that, I would need the script a few weeks in advance along with footage/audio of the dialogue. It is important for me to understand the arc of the story, unpick the character(s) and their relationship to each other, think about sign names etc. The film footage with good audio will help me examine the speed of dialogue, intonation and other vocal markers specific to the character(s). There might be a myriad of ways to convey a meaning, idea, concept or mood, so I will look at the best fit/lexical choice.

We’re very excited to have you back in the building for The Language of Kindness – you previously joined us for These Rooms in 2018 and The Big Pink Vogue Ball in 2019, can you tell us about any highlights from those shows?

These Rooms was a phenomenal account of historical events and as it was promenade style, immersive theatre and the sense of drama was incredibly heightened.  My highlight was watching the sheer physicality of the performers, even when they were still.  The set design was awesome too.  As for The Big Pink Vogue Ball, my co-worker and I had a ball, I was prepared to expect the unexpected but honestly, nothing could have prepared me to the utter delight I experienced seeing all the costumes and competitors voguing their way across the floor. It was fantastic!

These Rooms and The Big Pink Vogue Ball, and even The Language of Kindness certainly are very different productions, does the theme of a show affect your preparation and performance?

Absolutely and no two shows are the same.

How has and will social distancing affect your involvement and rehearsal for The Language of Kindness?

Fortunately, I will have the opportunity to see the show in situ ahead of the interpreted performance so preparation will be as it was pre Covid for shows where I am not integral to the performance – so automatically socially distanced on the side of the stage. The past year has presented me with multiple deaths in my New York extended family from Covid. Also, many of my family members across the pond are nurses, so, let’s just say the script resonates with me on many levels.

Can you tell us about your favourite or most memorable show or event you have interpreted?

Whilst they were not shows, interpreting twice for Michelle Obama and Angela Davis has been my most memorable in recent years.  I could list the actual shows that were most memorable but the list would be too long.

Jacqui Beckford will BSL interpreting The Language of Kindness on the 9 June 2021, find out more about the show and book here.

Lead image: Weighting by Extraordinary Bodies, Photo: Richard Davenport

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