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All the Abbey's a stage for Irish Sign Language

Once consigned to the edge of the stage, a growing number of theatre productions are now integrating interpreters for the deaf into the action, writes John Cradden

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Cultural weight: Amanda Coogan signing during The Fall of the Second Republic. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Cultural weight: Amanda Coogan signing during The Fall of the Second Republic. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Cultural weight: Amanda Coogan signing during The Fall of the Second Republic. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

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.