The Pied Piper Theatre Company and Deafinitely Theatre today announce the full cast of the Can Bears Ski? bythe award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus in a new adaptation for the stage by Tina Williams. It will be touring the 18 November to 25 February, with the press night on the 3 December at Hawth Studio, Crawley.
Tina Williams and Paula Garfield direct Ciaran O’Breen (BSL Teacher & David Bear), Emery Hunter (Little Bear), Jessica Warshaw (Audiologist), Nick Ash (Teacher Bear) and Zoë McWhinney (Speech & Language Therapist).
Tina Williams, the Artistic Director of the Pied Piper Theatre Company, who will co-direct the production said: “We’re thrilled and excited to announce our fantastic cast for this lovely and heart-warming production that we’re presenting with Deafinitely Theatre. Raymond Antrobus’ well-loved story comes to life this winter for all the family, featuring puppetry and music, as well as a fanciful set inspired by Polly Dunbar’s stunning illustrations that audiences will love.”
Raymond Antrobus MBE, the writer of Can Bears Ski?, said: “Seeing the colourful world from the pages of ‘Can Bears Ski?’ brought to life with actors is truly beautiful. This show isn’t just an opportunity to step into a world that deaf and hard of hearing children know well, it’s also an example for anyone to see how their own difference can be empowering.”
Paula Garfield, Co-Director and Artistic Director of Deafinitely Theatre said: “This is a collaboration that we’ve been looking forward to doing with our friends at The Pied Piper Theatre Company for some time – and brings together a hugely talented group of deaf and hearing actors creating onstage magic in British Sign Language and spoken English. All of these talented people will work together to tell this skilfully woven story about how children make sense of their experience when they don’t have the words to describe it.”
The story draws on the writer’s own experience as a deaf child in a hearing world with a set inspired by Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. The story is brought to life on stage with puppetry, music, British Sign Language and spoken English in a world première production for hearing and deaf young people aged 3+ and their families.
The Pied Piper Theatre Company and Deafinitely Theatre present
Written by Raymond Antrobus
Adapted for the stage by Tina Williams
18 November – 25 February 2023
Press performances: Sunday 3 December at 2pm at Hawth Studio, Crawley
Directed by Tina Williams and Paula Garfield
Set Design by Catherine Chapman; Composed by Julian Butler;
Movement Direction by Angela Gasparetto; Puppetry by Nick Ash
Dad Bear stops and looks directly at me.
“Your friend was saying hello. Why did you ignore him?”
“I didnʼt.” I didnʼt.
Then Dad Bear asks again, “CAN BEARS SKI?”
Is that really what heʼs asking me?
Little Bear can’t hear Dad Bear calling, but feels the floor vibrate with heavy footsteps… Little Bear can’t catch the funny joke at school when friends are laughing but feels the crunch of snow on frozen pavements. Join Little Bear and Dad Bear as they learn how there are many ways to communicate love, and to find your place in the world.
Ciaran O’Breen plays BSL Teacher and David Bear returning to Deafinitely Theatre having previously appeared in Getting There (Oxford Playhouse). His theatre credits include Lord of the Flies (Leeds Playhouse, Belgrade Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston), Hensel and Gretel (South West of England tour), Galwad (National Theatre Wales), Flood (Theatre Temoin), Playmakers and Red (Polka Theatre). His television credits include Galwad.
Emery Hunter plays Little Bear, she is a recent graduate of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her theatre credits include Undertow Overflow and Don’t. Make. Tea. (Edinburgh Festival Fringe).
Jessica Warshaw plays Audiologist. Her theatre credits include Everyone Cries their First Time (Stockwell Playhouse) and A Year From Now (Tristan Bates Theatre); and for film Boredroom and Runaways.
Nick Ash plays Teacher Bear. He has worked with Pied Piper for several years and helped to create a new strand of work for babies and young toddlers DIG! (UK tour) and BEACH. Other theatre credits as puppet maker include Sarah and Duck (UK tour), Snowflakes (Oxford Playhouse) and Gorilla (Polka Theatre).
Stefan Stuart plays Dad Bear. This is his third role for Pied Piper having previously appeared in Hare and Tortoise and Town Mouse and Country Mouse (UK, Europe and Singapore tour).
Zoë McWhinney plays Speech & Language Therapist. Their previous theatre credits include RED (Polka Theatre), Everyday (UK tour), Lilies on the Land (Apollo Theatre). As a poet, they performed at Roundhouse, United Nations’ Geneva headquarters, City of Birmingham Symphony and Orchestra and Glastonbury Festival.
Raymond Antrobus MBE FRSL was born in Hackney, London to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of Shapes & Disfigurements, To Sweeten Bitter, The Perseverance and All the Names Given. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes Award, Lucille Clifton Legacy Award, PBS Winter Choice, Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Somerset Maugham Award and The Guardian Poetry Book of the Year 2018, as well as a shortlist for The Griffin Prize, T.S. Eliot Prize and Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for his poem ‘Sound Machine’ and in 2019 and 2021 his poems (‘Jamaican British’, ‘The Perseverance’ and ‘Happy Birthday Moon’) were added to the UK’s GCSE syllabus. Raymond’s debut children’s picture book Can BearsSki? is illustrated by Polly Dunbar and was selected as an Ezra Jack Keats honouree winner in 2021, and selected for a Read For Empathy (Primary) Collection Award in 2022.
Paula Garfield co-directs. For Deafinitely Theatre she has also directed Vagina Monologues, Everyday, 4.48 Psychosis, Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf, Contractions – which won the Off West End Award for Best Production, Two Chairs, Motherland, Children of a Greater God, Playing God, Double Sentence and Gold Dust. She also devised and directed The Boy and the Statue for Deafinitely at the Tricycle Theatre and on a London schools’ tour. Garfield has directed two productions at Shakespeare’s Globe – Love Labour’s Lost, for the Globe to Globe Festival as part of Deafinitely’s 10th anniversary, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her other directing work includes Tanika’s Journey (Southwark Playhouse) Grounded (Park Theatre).
An actor, director, workshop leader and organiser, Garfield has worked on a variety of television, film and theatre projects over the past fifteen years. In 2002 she established Deafinitely Theatre with Steven Webb and Kate Furby after becoming frustrated at the barriers that deaf actors and directors face across the arts and media. She has produced and directed many plays and worked extensively in TV, including Channel Four’s Learn Sign Language, Four Fingers and a Thumb, BBC’s Hands Up and Casualty, plus appearances in every series of the BBC’s deaf drama, Switch.
Tina Williams co-directs. She is the Artistic Director of Pied Piper Theatre Company, which she set up in 1984 having trained as both an actor and a teacher. Tina has written, adapted, directed and produced over twenty-five plays for the company including a large scale national tour of Anne Fine’s The Book of the Banshee, and a community tour of A Little Princess involving eight actors and eight young people. Her recent original plays The Big ENORMOUS Present and Robin’s Winter Adventure.
In 1994 Tina set up the Education Department at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford, which ran until 2008. As well as directing several co-productions with the Yvonne Arnaud she wrote and directed Flash! Bang! Rabbit! for the youth theatre as a creative and cultural exchange with the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.
Tina has been engaged as Artistic Director for several co-productions throughout the UK and internationally in Singapore. She also directed several seasons at The Fortune Theatre in London’s West End. She is currently writing two new plays for age four upwards.