Stories fill the senses and the heart

26 January 2023

Moving in more than one sense, The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind fills The Blue Room Theatre studio with story and choreography.

The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind, Peter Blockey
The Studio at The Blue Room Theatre, 24 January 2023

For those of us who can see and hear it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to navigate life with those senses impaired.

The power of Peter Blockey’s theatre work The Lifetime of Deaf and Deaf Blind is that it invites the audience into this world.  

A deaf West Australian artist, Blockey is joined on stage by deafblind artist Eddie Szczepanik. With the assistance of hearing cast members Nathan Shaw, Zac Blundell and Sarah Green, the pair share snapshots of their lives, in Auslan (with narration for those of us who need it).

As we entered The Blue Room Studio to see The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind my first impression was that someone had forgotten to build a set. But in fact it’s the performance that fills this space. 

One scenario includes Szczepanik’s beloved Holden, which is skilfully mimed; doors opened, bonnet lifted to admire its V8 engine, seatbelts and mirrors adjusted. With Blockey as a passenger an incident occurs that suggests Szczepanik may need to get his eyesight tested. After this fun-filled recollection, the next one brings us back to earth.

We are at the surgery where Szczepanik is informed, via an Auslan interpreter, that he is going blind and will have to give up his license and driving his dream car. This is related matter-of-factly, stoically, but the loss is heartfelt.

Another scene takes place in a pub where, with the help of other patrons, the options available through the NDIS are discussed.  While informative, this scene seems a bit of a sidetrack from the previous drama. Then we head to a park, the background sounds are explained – a low flying plane and a car crash – but this scene feels a little vague and underdeveloped in comparison to the start of the journey.

The musical interludes of The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind are mesmerising; the accompanying signing of the vocals performed with chorus-line precision. The final number, in which clever use of lighting makes the white-gloved hands of the performers appeared bodiless, is a visual spectacle.

In a moving finale, each of the performers shares their story of how they came to Auslan.

On opening night were a couple of glitches with the sound and some scene changes that could have been tightened up but presumably these will be ironed out as the season progresses.

This show is well worth seeing but the season is sold out so keep an eye out for what comes next from Peter Blockey. I will be.

The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 28 January 2023.

Pictured top are cast members of ‘The Lifetime of Deaf and Deafblind’. Photo: Jenna Cowie

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Bruce Denny

Emerging critic Bruce Denny’s heritage is Yamatji down his mother’s side and native American down his father’s. He started his acting career in the late 1980s and has appeared in numerous Australian film, television and stage productions, most recently Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s The Sum of Us (2021). As a director Bruce’s most recent credit is Desert Wirla’s Kangaroo Stew. Bruce participated in Seesaw Magazine and Perth Festival’s inaugural mentoring workshops for emerging First Nations critics in 2020.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Just what the doctor ordered

    Just what the doctor ordered

    29 September 2023

    Dr AudiYO uses vocal gymnastics to take the audience on a fun adventure. Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are happy to take this prescription. 

    Reading time • 3 minutesTheatre
  • Seadragon weaves magic spell

    Seadragon weaves magic spell

    28 September 2023

    The Magical Weedy Seadragon enchants junior reviewer Isabel Greentree with a winning blend of story, song and humour.   

    Reading time • 4 minutesMulti-arts
  • Lifting the weight of the world

    Lifting the weight of the world

    28 September 2023

    Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are taken on a thoughtful and funny journey to the Moon with one overwhelmed girl.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio