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"Hypnotic, poetic and unruly. The Signdance Collective represents the ungovernable energy of art itself, railing and raging against tyrannical forces. Beautiful to behold"



No Passport, New York

"Bold & extraordinary, signs of brilliance, David Bower and Isolte Avila are something of a Beckettian duo"



Robert Shore

Time Out, London

"In a theatre landscape where the socially motivated angry writers of the sixties and seventies appear to be ancient history, it is exciting to see this outstanding offering from Signdance. Carthage combines poetry, music, sign and dance in this masterly presentation of physical theatre. Based on poetry written by Caridad Svich, the audience is propelled into a world where the voice and beauty of nature are ignored. But this is no fictional dystopian journey. We soon realise the performers are holding up our world for us to examine in all its brutality and inequality. We're drawn into the isolation of those experiencing slavery, human trafficking and forced migration. The fourth wall diving the audience from the actors is very quickly dismantled and we soon begin to realise how our silence and inactivity makes us culpable. It is extraordinary how drama dealing with such suffering and barbarism can be so beautiful. This is due to the sparkling language of Caridad Svich's poetry; the amazing acting of Isolte Avila, David Bower and Lionel M. Macauley and the haunting music of Angelina Schwammerlin. This is a production that everyone should see. But be prepared to be thinking about it for days to come, and like me, to be filled with the hope of seeing it again and again."

Peter Read

Playwright and Poet

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In Between Spaces Review, Wycombe Arts Centre, 29/02/2020

by Tarik Ross-Cameron (Development Coordinator, Punch)

In Between Spaces is an ingenious, timely and widely relatable production about our modern relationships: with each other, with ourselves, with the world around us, with and through technology, and even with time itself.

In this show, as in the best interdisciplinary ensemble performances I have seen, each art form simultaneously complements, enhances and blends into the other. The work is playful, poetic, and charming, and it speaks directly to human qualities, desires, and insecurities that are promoted and exacerbated by technology and our bonds with it.

There is a delicate balance between narrative and abstraction in the play that intrigues and keeps the audience guessing as the main characters move fluidly (and literally) between the film screen, the stage and amongst the audience, whilst the character of ‘'time is fittingly ever-present on stage. The narrative is driven by engaging, rich, lyrical spoken words that translate the more abstract themes of the play into poems that could each stand alone and mesh brilliantly with the carefully conceived music, movement, and vocals in the performance.

In Between Spaces is a show that uses many different languages, including physical, verbal, and universal. In my opinion, the actual value and beauty of this work is in the fact that you do not need to be fluent in the languages of Sign, Spanish, English, music, film, dance, body, or any other language for this art to speak to you; you need to be present.



''In Between Spaces'' 2021 Tour  Review  Caylia Wallace New Jersey 

This summer, I was commissioned to work and perform with Signdance Collective. My experience with them in High Wycombe, UK, was terrific. Isolte, David, Rob, Angelina, and Soobie helped me explore a different part of my artistry as a dancer, creator, and all-around artist. The work I saw them doing with “In Between Spaces” moved me as an artist and an audience member. “In Between Spaces” is a genius work, and the performance of every individual in the work is exceptional. The way the entire cast has committed to this story of digital consequences is groundbreaking. 


 In Between Spaces has been ongoing work for the past four years. To watch them bring it to life and share it with different audiences was a pleasure"e. “In Between Spaces” brings you to a mindset of deeper thinking about today’s society. The digital aspect of the show allows us to see performance in how our world functions today through technology"y. “In Between Sp'ces' almost felt like a time travel of thoughts and the places many of our minds wander to. As humans, we often go in between what was and what is. Although this was unintentional when this piece was first created, with the late performer Lionel Maculey still having a role in this show, the work exemplifies being in between spaces mentally, physically, and spiritually."  “In Between Spaces” is a work before its time.

Caylia R. Wallace, M.A.

Founder and Artistic Creator of Throughtheyes


Carthage 2017  Review David Crystal OBE at the Ucheldre Centre North Wales

Carthage Cartagena was written by Cuban-American playwright Caridad Svich to draw attention to the linguistic - let alone the social - plight of those displaced or isolated by slavery, human trafficking, and forced migration. Accessing the language of power to improve quality of life - or even survive -  is a real problem for those whose backgrounds have never allowed them to master it. As such, it is a hugely relevant theme for our times, and Arts Council England (Production Grant) and Arts Council Wales (Taking Part Grant)

Congratulations on enabling the company to adapt the text for stage performance and tour it to places where people need a constant reminder of the importance of linguistic issues in their lives.

2003, I talked at a UNESCO conference on the world's endangered languages. I made a case for the arts as a crucial means of drawing the public's attention to language and the crisis facing world languages. A language becomes extinct somewhere in the world every three months or so, and its unique voices need to be recorded and documented so that its place in the history of the human race can be remembered. However, not just languages need to have their voices heard, as SigndaCollective'sve's brilliant production illustrates. Within a language, there are areas of society whose voices are never heard - or, when they are, are little respected.


 There is no word in English to categorize what the company has produced, for it is a mix of dance, theatre, music, spoken language, and signed language. I suppose the company's self-description, 'signdance theatre', comes closest. The hybrid captures the essence of all art, which is to make us 'see' in a way we have not seen before, and the juxtaposition of the different communicative mediums certainly gave this reviewer at least a fresh perspective on the function of language and its role as a means of unification as well as separation. The performance presented ten multilingual letter song poems, exploring different language registers. It exploited the full range of dramatic effects, from its wistful, gentle musical opening to the visceral impact of unison speech and daring movement.

            The company's members illustrate the inclusiveness of their subject-matter demands, focusing on disability-deaf-led teamwork. We saw four in action: Isolte Avila, David Bower, Lionel M Macauley, and Angelina Schwammerlin, whose biopics cross the boundaries of colour, gender, and disability. Their dynamic and moving performances integrate so well in telling the story that one no longer notices who is black or white, male or female, deaf or hearing. This is inclusive theatre at its best.

            The company's accompanying literature contains a few lines that perfectly summarise what Carthage is all about: 'Millions suddenly finding themselves marooned inside an alien and often confused, divisive cultural environment are finding that their voices have become muted. Carthage gives the quiet voice expression, a poetical plea through sign language, dialogue, dance and theatre for cosmopolitanism, rationality, reason and compass.'

It is a hugely tricky theme to address: what is it like to feel you have no voice? Harold Pinter addressed it once in Mountain Language. I did myself in Living On. Carthage reminded me not only of the plight of speakers of endangered and oppressed languages but of all who have to cope with limited speech or language, such as the ten per cent of the population who have some communicative disability - those affected by aphasia, stammering, language delay, and all the other conditions that speech and language therapists deal with every day. Writing about such issues is difficult enough; performing it is a much more significant challenge, which Signdance Collective have very successfully met.  

Carthage Cartagena

In a theatre landscape where the socially motivated angry writers of the sixties and seventies appear to be ancient history, it is exciting to see this outstanding offering from Signdance. Carthage combines poetry, music, sign and dance in this masterly presentation of physical theatre. Based on poetry written by Caridad Svich, the audience is propelled into a world where the voice and beauty of nature are ignored. But this is no fictional dystopian journey. We soon realise the performers are holding up our world so that we can examine all its brutality and inequaliWe'ree’re drawn into the isolation of those experiencing slavery,  human trafficking and forced migration.  

The fourth wall dividing the audience from the actors is quickly dismantled, and we soon begin to realise how our silence and inactivity make us culpable. It is extraordinary how drama dealing with such suffering and barbarism can be so beautiful. This is due to the sparkling language of CariSvich'sch’s poetry, the fantastic acting of Isolte Avila, David Bower, and Lionel M. Macauley, and the haunting music of Angelina Schwammerlin.

This is a production that everyone should see. But be prepared to think about it for days to come, and like me, to be filled with the hope of seeing it again and again."Carthage"

Review by  Peter Read at Undegun Arts Centre North Wales.

"Carthage Louisiana  State University No Passport  Conference 

Conference 2014- Louisiana State University  Review Eric Mayer Garcia

   The much-anticipated work-in-progress performance of Carthage/Cartagena, written by Caridad Svich and developed with the Signdance Collective International, played to a packed audience. The text of Carthage/Cartagena is a series of multi-lingual letter-song poems connected by themes of displacement, exile, and human trafficking. This verse play dramatizes moments of “desterrar,” or being ripped away from homeland and finding oneself in a foreign land. The piece stages the violent origins of diaspora, a recurrent topic raised throughout the (No Passport 2014)conference. .  The verse of Carthage/Cartagena enacts its diasporic imagination in rendering voices of individuals displaced by wars, human trafficking, and acts of violence.  As a previous reviewer had pointed out, the play on words within Carta-ajena could mean a letter from afar and a letter written in a foreign language.  These “letters from afar” are written from spaces of dislocation and speak from the borderlands of the real, a space beyond representation and language, encircling the edges of trauma. The text of Carthage/Cartagena draws on multiple languages, English, Spanish, Italian, BSL and ASL, as a strategy to approach this “unspeakable” space of trauma through the disconnected space between languages and the gap between meanings lost in translation.

            The SDCI is the perfect company to interpret the piece because they move between many registers of language: spoken, sung, and embodied in their specific fusion of dance and sign. Images of homeland, like a lemon tree, a cake, or a spinning top, were invoked as the final vestiges of subjectivity from the edges of the traumatic experience. The SDCI’s approach interpreted the loss of homeland as the structural loss of innocence. Coming of age in the blown-out wasteland of Carthage/Cartagena means grappling with the shock of total loss, retracing the missing pieces of self, and transforming into a state of absolute exile.   The ritual structure of the choreography, a spiralling transcendental meditation, made room for the co-presence of these lost voices—the casualties of violent acts of displacement—as they were re-imagined in performance. Carthage/Cartagena made for an intense and riveting end to this 8th annual meeting of the NoPassport Theatre Alliance. 

Broken City Wall Street2016- New York City - 

Movement Work Created   2016-Pop-Up Theatrics New York City

by SDC for Pop-Up Theatrics 

This innovative company fuses sign language with dance, theatre and live music to create electrifying performances worldwide. Their work is unusual and poetic; it breaks the rules, transforming physical disability into artistic wonder. Tamilla Woodard, Director NYC.

Bad Elvis 2014-2015  DAO review

Bad Elvis, written by Katie Hims, was originally conceived as a drama for BBC Radio 4. The rambunctious Signdance Collective International have since adapted it for the stage with its unique style. They recently performed it for Iris Theatre in London. Sophie Partridge was in attendance.

Bad Elvis has a superb cast of four, including Cuban (and disabled) dancer Isolte Avila as Mother, Brazilian performer Pedro de Senna, New York actor Irina Kaplan and their Artistic Director, David Bower (yes, that Deaf David from that film)…plus Elvis (more on him later).

The Actors Church, Covent Garden proved to be a suitably surreal and somehow glamorous venue for my first experience of this company’s work. With performers welcoming us into their heightened world, the church’s altar formed a hotel lobby and function room; a sparkly-clad woman smoked an e-cigarette as a hostess desperately tried to air the place of smoke by opening invisible windows!

Pedro, the Wedding Officiate, gathered his congregation through sign. No props were present, but the cast utilised what was there, so benches became a vantage point for Mother. The church’s atmospheric lighting added to the glitz of the costumes. Protagonist Aiden (played by Bower) gleamed in his bright blue suit, and the injury to his head played out through consistent, fluid body movement, which brought him low then swept him up in beats like a pulse, flowing between the performers…watch and learn Strictly dancers!

All of the characters signed, although only one was Deaf, and it almost seemed an unconscious act, not an obvious ‘interpretation’. This combination of movement, music and surreality, particularly in the driving scene, reminded me of the David Glass Ensemble, with its comical yet slightly sinister edge.

Then suddenly Elvis was in the building, and he wasn’t bad! As a puppet partly worn by Pedro de Senna, he strutted his stuff yet never stole the show; always a point of danger when puppets are brought in alongside weaker performers.

A puppet's puppeteer engendered its unique physical language, which blended with the others. For me, there was also something pleasing about Elvis and Mother being of comparable height, especially when Isolte sang his classic hits tremendously, with interloping numbers by Roy Orbison, etc.

"Bad Elvis Review Signdance Collective International with the life-size Bad Elvis puppet Review DAO 

Salford University and The BBC hosted Signdance Collective's performance of Bad Elvis on 21st March. Peter Street went along to see the company's brand of sign-musical theatre at its best.

"Superb, not long enough," said the Mayor Of Salford. How right he was; Bad Elvis was an hour-long tour de force. This was a unique theatre production thanks to director Sue Roberts and writer Katie Hims.

Bad Elvis was no cheesy impersonation of Elvis Presley but a surreal tribute to him that really hit the spot. David Bower was breathtaking in his role as Aiden. He signed and spoke while dancing in a light blue zoot suit.

I was thinking it couldn’t get better, that was, until Isolte Avila ‘mum’ belted out “All Shook Up.” From then on, every time she finished another song, the audience showed wonder about it all by clapping and more. I’ve seen various so-called singers try their vocal chords on this difficult song: she left them all standing. That’s how fabulous as it was, not only, but then the players of Bad Elvis came to the edge of the floor and invited us to take part with four basic signs of All Shook Up with BSL. 

David’s dance partner, Francesca Osimani, who played Snow White, lifted the play another notch when she danced and signed alongside him. I was worried about Francesca fitting in with deaf and disabled actors, but then watching her, I doubted if anyone could have performed, signed, danced, and worked the musical better than she did.

The one great feature of this production was the one you kept thinking: surely it can't get better, but it did. 

Hearns Sebuado - the landlord and brother, rocked and rolled with his dance partner, the life-size puppet of Elvis’s the ‘King’ dressed in the white suit we all love and adore. That puppet - sorry Elvis wouldn’t have been Elvis without out the suit. Hearns first took us through every emotion by bringing laughter and tears when he introduced us to his Elvis.

Then, he laughed us more when he danced and jived around with this very own Elvis while fastened to his legs. Superb. We were laughing and singing along with it all. People around me were tapping their feet, and then suddenly, the King died before us, and Hearns caressed him. It was as if some real person was dying on his knee. It was so convincing that just then, for a few seconds, I remembered where I was on that tragic day of 1977.

You would be hard-pushed to see anything as good as Bad Elvis. It was faultless. DAO

 Peyrots Stolen Dolls- 2013 Review Mike Jutsum 

 Puppetmaster and slave: a complex, powerful relationship    

What’s the last time I felt uncomfortable as a man? What is in my gaze – how may I look at a woman; young full of innocence and knowing? You look, you appreciate aesthetically, you want, you lust, you rape…no of course not but this challenging performance leads you to examine how each of us may be corrupted. Abuse in Ohio comes to sit on your knee.  This work has connected with the zeitgeist of the times, and in so doing, the interplay between man’s domination of women and their mutual support forced through circumstance leaves an impression of one young woman and her struggle against the strength of the female collective as well as the cruelty of man.

The stage is set with a dominant evil puppet theatre arch, a hell mouth which consumes and dominates the actions of the lusting puppet master danced and acted chillingly by David Bower; his gestures and movements twisted out of shape from his true nature. The women engage in burlesque, drawing in the audience to seeing supposedly harmless sexual presentation but one where limits may not hold.

Despite their touching solidarity, the young Mouche superbly articulated by Laura Goulden with a range of expressions from the eyes worthy of silent films, and a young Lillian Gish may not be saved by her more knowing women companions from the violent denouement.  We have a trio of women who entice Mouche through their knowing laughter and are drawn together by the experience of an older woman whose expertise and years do not save her, but she retains pride and her own power.  This woman,  as played by Isolte Avila, provides a hypnotic insight into the art of leadership by a woman, expressed in a burlesque manner, and she draws a character of immense sexual magnetism.  The juxtaposition is that she, too, is naively exploited but remains a fundamental influence on the female group dominated by the puppet master.  Francesca Osimini and Lilley complete the dynamics of female interplay; together, they are strong, enticing, alluring and scared.  

Throughout the performance, you feel the simmering cruelty of the puppet master, and the large-scale puppet serves as a metaphor for control. The company Signdance Collective is exactly that: the sensuality of sign movements through dance shaped by an actor’s expression. The live music by Dead Days Beyond Help – the presence of the musicians on stage is essential – is a key element in the choreography of the whole piece. Each collective member has their moves, which combine giving room to chance and innovative development wholly appropriate to the nature of the piece.

“Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning


Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning


(TS Elliot- “Marina”)

The end seems inevitable, but there are moments of hope, play, and levity. Redemption through the solidarity of the women seems possible.

The evening's consultative conclusion demonstrated the piece's impact and presentation skills. Joke Menssink, who directed the work, posed questions as the audience reflected on the experience.

 “How do you (the audience ) see this piece ending? It is still in development; this research tells us,” No uneasy silence broken only by the voice of the egotist who thinks they should have directed the piece. Instead, an immediate considered analysis was conducted with a wide range of audience participants from the teens to the 60s. I noted that a real discussion ensued, with the men playing a muted role. The puppet master may be threatened with death, redemption, or becoming a puppet himself in future productions. I have rarely encountered such inclusion of an audience – the collective is completed by that real dialectic.

Do not expect an easy time as a distanced consumer. This is not a nuanced intellectual experience. It is visceral and delicate. The Collective offers a challenge to the male gaze and to female burlesque complicity. Unfortunately, its contemporary relevance is assured.

Mike Jutsum  York England MA

Dear SDC, What can I say? I thought last night was amazing...It made me laugh, cry, think, and dance even.I had a wonderful evening. The amazing work you are doing is unique and extremely important. I caught my train and got home at midnight with a warm glow from your show }Dances For A Lost Traveller   Sue Roberts  - Executive Producer BBC  Drama  North.  

Artistic director David Bower may be familiar to moviegoers as Hugh Grant’s deaf and wonderfully honest brother in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and with this company, he is no less honest, almost ruthlessly so. What he sets out to achieve in the most compelling of these four pieces is an expression of the inner journey he had to make in order to reconcile himself to “the Noise” - the tinnitus he has suffered since 1986 following an Indie gig. In this uncompromising performance, he seems to become the sounds in his head while trying to cast them out. It is as if a devil has taken root behind his eyes, and he is determined not to be driven mad. Unforgettable. Providing a dizzying background to this is some excellent live rock music (courtesy of Luke Barlow) and in the first half of the evening singer/songwriter Alex Ward also performs several splendidly abrasive songs of his own, accompanied by his own electric guitar and “sign theatre” from Isolte Avila   ......What's On Stage In London ****2010

Half A Penny  2012-2015 Ethos Festival review 2014

One of the most interesting performances of the 7th Ethos Festival was undoubtedly "Half a Penny" performed by Signdance Collective.

The work, bearing a resemblance to John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" and Brecht's epic theatre, employs theatre-music-dance-body and sign language to show that we should never forget that we are human beings, live befitting this, have the power to change the system causing wars, and should fight for our rights and freedom. They also use body and sign language to create a universal language that caters to and enfolds all -including those who are hearing impaired.

The first part "Half a Penny" deals with political pressure, citizenship, predetermined roles enforced on people, consumerism, freedom, revolt and being 'human'. The visuals such as Thatcher, Churchill, Luther King, Bush, Reagan, slavery, and half a penny representing the system are projected on the stage when a well-dressed orator delivers a speech composed of political cliches. Meanwhile, Vox Populi and sign language interpreter Citizen Vox interfere (distorting, mocking, imitating). While the audience drifts to another world filled with music and dance Citizen Vox's lines are very effective and provocative:"You may take refuge in stereotypes, but you cannot hide there long. There is only one question to be asked: Are you human? And this is the right question: Are you human? [...] You are human. You have not earned cruelty, and you do not deserve meanness. You won't benefit from being isolated or treating each other as outcasts. [...] You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.

 ETHOS FESTIVAL Ankara, Turkey

Reviews for In Between Spaces

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