Saturday, 06 August 2022 00:00

Sight loss doesn’t dim Norfolk actor’s stage talents

Written by  Richard Batson
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Sight loss doesn’t dim Norfolk actor’s stage talents Image courtesy of Teele Dunkley

Actor Gillian Dean is set to play a blind woman in a summer drama thriller, using her own visual impairment to bring extra realism to the role.

But two weeks later she will play a fully-sighted character in a classic comedy, using stage craft and support from fellow cast members so her disability is not noticeable.

The inspirational 42-year-old from Lakenham, Norwich is currently rehearsing and learning lines for both roles at Sheringham Little Theatre this month.In Wait Until Dark she is blind Susy who is alone in her 1960s London flat with a doll being targeted by three desperate con men. In Table Manners she is Annie, who is trying to spend an illicit weekend with her brother-in-law.

Gillian said: “Thumbs up to the Little Theatre for casting a visually-impaired person to play Susy. “It is good for ethical reasons and because we disabled actors are under-represented - but I can also bring real authenticity to the role".

“I have played sighted roles before and it is all about talking to the cast and director about what I can and cannot do and finding ways around it. I can see enough not to fall over things but if, say, I cannot see a step on stage we can arrange for someone else to go up it first so I can follow. And if my cue is from a facial expression other cast members can make a noise or give me a nudge.”

Play director Brendan Murray said: “A sighted actor can represent a blind person on stage, but Gillian’s real-life experience is teaching us how to portray things from a genuine visually-impaired perspective. She is amazingly positive and a very able actor.”

 

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          Gillian as Susy - image credit Matt Jamie

Gillian, who was brought up and went to school in Taverham, has been losing her sight to a degenerative eye condition from the age of seven. But she has not let it stop her living a full life - working in front of house and manager roles at Norwich Playhouse, and The Garage after gaining an honours degree in contemporary theatre.In 2009 she switched to acting after a role cropped up at short notice and it has led to a varied career from Shakespeare, voice over work and medical role play, to playing a blind woman in the TV series Home Fires.

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           Gillian as Isobel Reilly in Home Fires  - image credit Gillian Dean

Gillian also plays musical instruments, sings in swing and folk bands, and has learned stage sword fighting, taking her visual impairment in her stride.“Learning to ride a horse is next on my list. I am big fan of fantasy dramas like The Witcher and Game of Thrones - and hope that if they ever want a sword-wielding, woman horse rider… the role is mine!”Wait Until Dark is at Sheringham Little Theatre from August 9-13 and Table Manners from August 23-31. Tickets and more information from www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com or the box office on 01263 822347.

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                                  Gillian as Susy - image credit Matt Jamie

Last modified on Saturday, 06 August 2022 15:26

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