Caro Parker answered a few questions for us. You can catch her soon at the Drill Hall with her latest sign song theatre piece.
You've played a wide range of theatre roles - everything from knockabout comedy to classical theatre. What are your most memorable moments?
Hmmm... after working for so long it sometimes gets all a bit of a blur. I think the defining moments are when the unexpected happens - such as a piece of set falling down on my first job with Interim Theatre's Servant of two Masters. And when a door handle came off a door in Hampstead Theatre's A Debutantes' Ball. I enjoy playing challenging roles such as Hecuba in Solent People's Theatre production of Trojan Women and all the characters in Graeae's Two. This involved a wide spectrum ranging from comedy to pathos to tragedy.
Who are your biggest influences?
I have devised a few plays with writers, and the wonderful Jamie Beddard brought his sharp and humorous observations to Walking amongst Sleepers. As an actress I am inspired by my director - Jenny Sealey and Mollie Guilfoyle amonst many. I am also inspired by such great actresses as Julie Walters and Dame Judi Dench who can work the range of comedy to classic so easily.
You are now doing more individual work. How did Signs of Diva come about? How does it differ from the Sign Song cabaret performances you are well known for?
Many years ago when I was working in Nottingham with a theatre company and staying with Jenny Sealey, my sign song act was well established, there was interest in perhaps developing the act into something more substantial. I came up with the title Signs of a Diva but was too busy working to do anything about it. When Jenny Sealey was approached to submit ideas for theatre shows by Drill Hall Productions, Jenny remembered our conversations and lo! Our show is commissioned. This will be a theatre piece as opposed to a pure cabaret experience with a character and story involving sign songs. All the songs in this show will be Diva songs from throughout the ages, hence the title.
I understand you're keen to encourage mainstream venues to have more BSL interpreted performances and you are involved with training BSL interpreters for theatres. How is this work being received by venues?
At the end of the Theaterps course I arranged a day for the venue managers and directors to come and learn how to work with a sign interpreter in a more creative and constructive way. Already there has been some result as The Young Vic recently had a play in which sign language interpreters interacted in the show. It was a Brecht play directed by Jan Weilamm Der Bosch who came to the Theaterps day.
You run a lot of workshops with deaf and disabled people - notably soon to be working with Theatre Resource on The Big Draw. What is your key motivation when taking on this kind of work?
The project Big D (as in capital D or small d for deaf), has been going for several years. As a freelance workshop facilitator I do these workshops because they pay well!! On the other hand I like to put my experience as a performer to positive use by encouraging deaf/disabled people to get involved in the arts. People always need encouragement in getting involved with the arts and now there are more and more opportunities to do so. If I can support this in any way I am there doing so.
Signs of a Diva - stories behind the songs that have touched a generation of music lovers - played at The Drill Hall, 16 Chenies Street, London WC1E from 10th - 14th November 2003.
Box Office: 020 7307 5060
The Big D
Theatre Resource ran two days of drama, art and signed song for deaf and partially-hearing young people, with Caro Parker and Stephen Webb. The Big D runs from 23-24 October 2003, Chipping Ongar, Essex