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Lara Smallman
Campaigner, film-maker, blogger (London, United Kingdom)

Self-taught film-maker interested in exploring human rights issues. See more on


The problem is ours, not theirs

Published 20th July 2010 - 8 comments - 2089 views -

Eleven deaf-blind actors taking to the stage is the last thing you'd expect on a trip to the theatre. But that's exactly what happened on a recent trip I made.

'Not by Bread Alone' is a show like no other. Two-years in the making, the 90-minute show invites you into the actors' inner world - plagued by darkness and silence - as they share their innermost thoughts, hopes and dreams.

A while ago, director Adina Tal was approached and asked to do a project with deaf-blind actors. To put it mildly, her initial reaction wasn't all that positive. But that was ten years ago. In that time she's set up the Nalaga'at theatre group in Israel. The eleven actors I saw on stage last Tuesday are at last getting the human interaction they long for, meanwhile audiences are getting an insight into a whole new world...

The importance of walking a mile in someone else's shoes...

Just before the start of the show I was led into Blackout, a room of total darkness, not just to have a snack, but to get a taste for what it's like to be blind. A total role reversal, the trained blind waiters led me around the room and catered to my every need. Downstairs, after the show, I participated in Café Kapish. I had but two minutes to learn as much sign-language from the explanatory table mat before me as I could, before ordering from the deaf waitress. 

The evening opened my eyes not just to what it's like to be blind or deaf, but also to the reality of what's going on. Often it's not the disability that's holding individuals back, but society's attitudes to that particular disability, and sadly, to disability as a whole.

I couldn't believe it when I heard the director recalling how some audience members in the past had, entirely seriously, asked if their performance ticket was tax deductable - because the actors were disabled - they saw themselves as going a good deed by buying a ticket. Fortunately, by the end of the show they'd realised that it was the actors who had done them the favour - by putting on an unforgettable show.



Changing attitudes

A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled, 'A picture speaks a thousand words, but can't they be more positive ones?' I was more than a little irritated by the constant stream of negative press coverage when it came to development. At last, small glimmers of hope glisten on the horizon. Not only did this show get extensive, and very complimentary press coverage (click here for an exceptional audioslideshow from the BBC), but I found myself smiling as I flicked through last week's papers.

Six months on from the horrific Haiti earthquake, rather than waiting endlessly for government intervention, locals are taking on the job of reconstruction themselves.

Elsewhere, I came across this inspiring article, about a disabled music band from Kinshaha, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 'Staff Benda Bilili have endured polio, homelessness and shelter fires to become world music's latest sensation.'



People say we can't do anything. The problems are too big. And if they're not too big, they're too complex, but they're wrong.

We can open our minds, and start seeing the opportunities...

Category: Equality | Tags:


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 20th July 2010:

    I live in the integration school in Denmark for disabled and non-disabled youth and they always used to say: we don’t see obstacles, we see possibilities”. Indeed, it’s true and we should learn a lot about integration from Scandinavian countries. How long will we underline that the person is disabled? Is it possible that one day we will not see this as we will be all integrated?

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 20th July 2010:

    I recommend a film “Voices from El-Sayed”, it is a story about the villiage of Beduines where the largest concentration of deaf people in the world live:

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 20th July 2010:

    aaa and last thing for now… well, I wrote the master degree thesis about “People with disability in Polish press” so I happy to see this topic on the platfrom wink In Denmark they also tell us (I was there with 12 other Eastern European students): “In your countries disability is an individual problem but in Denmark it is a problem of society”...

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 20th July 2010:

    thanks smile unfortunately it is in Polish. You should really see the film - it’s documentary but it is very beautiful and artistic.

  • Jodi Bush on 20th July 2010:

    Your article reminded me of a restaurant in London called Dans le Noir - similar concept as the blackout room - you eat in the dark, and are served by blind waiters. Apparently it is quite an experience. I’ve been keen to try it out.

    (congrats on your win by the way! Much deserved.)

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