If you're a regular visitor to shows in the Abbey Theatre, the chances are your eyes have been drawn at least occasionally to a sign language interpreter over at the side of the stage, translating the main action into the native language of the Irish deaf community.
But far from just facilitating essential access for deaf users of Irish Sign Language, some theatre production teams at the Abbey have gone out of their way to integrate the interpreters more into the action.
For instance, during the last run of Roddy Doyle's smash-hit show, Two Pints, experienced interpreter and long-time Abbey collaborator Caroline O'Leary sat at a table on the stage not far from the bar where the two main characters sat, as if she was in the pub.
As well as that, O'Leary was told that she had three different outfits to change into as the story runs over three nights in the pub. (Normally, they just wear black). "That's the first time that's ever happened with me," she said. "Then they said 'Now you can even help us by putting a packet of crisps on the table and eating them'."
Amanda Coogan has also interpreted plays at the Abbey where she has been more immersed in the main action. In a 2008 production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, she was allowed to shadow all over the stage the central character of Ui, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. In this instance, it helped that her husband, Jimmy Fay, was the play's director, but she would always aim to be as immersed as possible.
"My approach to tackling a play is that, first and foremost, I'm a translator," she says. "So like Seamus Heaney's translation of Sophocles's Antigone, or Tom Murphy's version of The Cherry Orchard... all these great translations are an art form in themselves, is what I would claim. But of course, there are productions that just can't embed you as much as you would like."
Although Irish Sign Language was only recognised as an official language in Ireland in late 2017 with the passing of the Irish Sign Language Act, the Abbey Theatre has been consistently providing sign language interpreted performances (SLIPs) of all its shows for just over 20 years, along with captioning for the hard of hearing or audio-description for visually impaired folks.
And since last year, the Gate Theatre has now been making the same commitment to SLIPs.
Lianne Quigley is probably one of the Abbey's most loyal customers. A native ISL user and regular actor and director with the Dublin Theatre of the Deaf, she has attended nearly every SLIP the Abbey or the Gate has put on since leaving college in the middle noughties.
As a child she would have gone to the Abbey and the Gate regularly with her mother, who would have done her best to help Lianne follow the show, but needless to say, with qualified, experienced theatre interpreters involved, she says the difference in terms of access is night and day - even compared with captioning.
"As a theatregoer, I want to see plays and be emotionally involved and engaged with the content of the play, but with captions I don't get that so much without being able to hear if the actor's voice is conveying sadness, happiness or anger. With an ISL interpreter, I get that full access."
She is also full of praise for staff at the Abbey, particularly outreach officer Lisa Farrelly, for their hard work in co-ordinating SLIP shows and communicating with the deaf community about them.
But it's no surprise to hear that there is more preparation for theatre work than for any other type of interpreting assignment.
"The theatre is my guilty pleasure; I absolutely love doing theatre work," says Vanessa O'Connell, who has been interpreting shows for 15 years.
"However, there is a lot of work involved."
There is no formal interpreter training for theatre work, but O'Leary and others have developed some basic rules and regulations over the years. One of them is that they need to watch the full show at least three times before doing a SLIP.
"So even if the show is an hour long or three hours long, you have to go three times," says O'Connell. "And then you'll get your scripts and you work with the script.
"For the first viewing, I like to just go and enjoy the show. Subliminally, you will be taking into account set changes or if there's downtime, as we call it."
It's also the opportunity to determine if a show needs two interpreters rather than one.
Other theatres are a long way behind the record of the Abbey and now the Gate in terms of putting on SLIPs, but Coogan acknowledges that it's mainly a funding issue, particularly given that the Abbey and the Gate get the lion's share of Arts Council funding. However, she suggests that theatre companies designate a percentage of their funding applications in the name of accessibility rather than consider it as an afterthought.
"It's not only an accessibility piece", she says, adding that she has had several hearing people come to her saying they saw a SLIP before and it gave them a whole new reading on the show. "It also enriches the production."
The enhanced visibility for ISL through the national theatre is another ancillary benefit. "I've noticed over the last few years that the audience are more respectful of the language," says Quigley. "You rarely get anyone complaining that it's distracting or getting in the way of their enjoyment of the show.
"I've also noticed that the actors, when they give their bow at the end of the show, they wave their hands in the silent applause to the interpreter, which is really lovely."
While Coogan and Quigley are adamant about the "cultural weight" that good ISL theatre interpreters bring to a production, O'Leary admits to once being reluctant to let the crew and the audience acknowledge her role at the curtain call.
"It took me a long time to come around to being able to take the bow at the end of the show for my part," she says.
"I hated that part for a long, long time. I would just want to disappear off the stage but I have come around now to say, 'It's a job well done', as deaf people want to applaud and show that they enjoyed the show because I was there."
The next SLIP at the Abbey Theatre is of 'The Fall of the Second Republic' on Thursday March 12