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Signdance Collective present ‘Carthage/ Cartagena’


Signdance Collective celebrate a 30-year anniversary with an international tour of Carthage/Cartagena by Obie Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich and will be performing at Oxford Playhouse, Burton Taylor Studio on Friday 7th July at 7.30pm and Theaterlab, New York from July 19th -21st

Set in an imagined despoiled, war-torn landscape, Carthage/Cartagena uncovers the lost voices of those who have been displaced and isolated by slavery, human trafficking, and forced migration. Signdance imagines Svich’s text, which is constructed as a series of ten song-poems, through their signature hybrid form, incorporating dance, theatre, music and languages both spoken and signed

As David Bower, Signdance Collective’s Artistic Director, shares: “Carthage/Cartagena gives the quiet voice expression, a poetical plea through Signdance Collective for cosmopolitanism, reason and compassion.”
The performance is suitable for 14+.

Carthage/Cartagena is supported by Arts Council England.

Signdance Collective present ‘Carthage/ Cartagena’

Isolte Avila and David Bower from Signdance Collective

Isolte Avila and David Bower from Signdance Collective

“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 dividing 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

“The company has produced an astounding mix of dance, theatre, music, spoken language, and signed language. 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 gave a fresh perspective on the function of language and its role as a means of unification as well as separation. The performance presented us with ten multilingual letter song-poems, exploring different registers of language, and exploited the full range of dramatic effect, from its wistful gentle musical opening to the visceral impact of unison speech and daring movement.

The members of the small company illustrate the inclusiveness their subject-matter demands focussing on disability-deaf-led teamwork. Isolte Avila, David Bower, Lionel M Macauley, and Angelina Schwammerlin biopics cross the boundaries of colour, gender and disability. Their dynamic and moving performances 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 compassion.’

It is a hugely difficult 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. Writing about such issues is difficult enough; performing it is a much greater challenge, which Signdance Collective have very successfully met.”
David Crystal OBE, writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster on the English language

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