When I was a kid, writing was an activity that came very natural to me. I wrote poetry and prose, monologues and journals and never really stopped. One of the bits of text I wrote, when I was about eleven, was ‘I’d like to live in a bubble which protects me’. It was a very formally ambitious project because I managed to somehow sew together a big “bubble” made of elastic fabric and move inside it with the text recorded in the background. Very edgy work. What I didn’t realise then, but have been realising more and more in recent years, is how personal the experience of writing always felt to me, it was a way to reflect my own experience and connect with others.
In a way, that is why I wanted to join Wellspring, I was looking for an adult sized (non-COVID related) bubble to protect me while I grow and cultivate my writing. I was looking for space to experiment with bringing British Sign Language, which has become an inseparable part of my life, into my writing. I wanted to find a way to refine my process so that English isn’t the language guiding the process all the time. And this is what I found out.
In BSL, I’d sign that sentence:
Difficult / Problem
If the line is written by a writer who is a BSL user for actors who are BSL users working with a BSL consultant then why does it need to be written down in English and then be translated?
How can I avoid the situation of sending a script in English which says in BSL in brackets before almost each line? Theatres don’t have in-house BSL translators, and also, translating a monologue from BSL.
Because someone in that theatre will either receive a text in English with an instruction to translate it to BSL or a BSL file which needs to be translated. But how do we as writers still have agency to make these choices in a way which serves our artistic expression?
These questions shouldn’t be hard for me.
I’ve been writing in English.
Which is my second language.
For more than 15 years.
(If you count the script I wrote when I was 15 titled Miracles do Happen which I planned to send to Warner Bros – spoilers, no one from Warner Bros contacted me. Truth be told I never sent the script – though it had a wicked theme song.)
I think to myself
These questions shouldn’t be hard
But they are
They have been
So as you can tell
I found myself
In need of
This process is
If I’d sign that, there wouldn’t really be a direct English translation.
But the closest one would be:
I keep going
I’ll finish with a secret, which isn’t really a secret if I’m telling it to you but let’s pretend it is. Language gives me a sense of belonging. I use language to
And in the last few years, bereavement made it hard to build these homes or use language so I stopped writing for quite a long time. Being in a group with such brilliant humans working with the kind and insightful practitioners that we met has been soul nourishing.
So there you have it – a bit of me, a bit of identity and language politics and hopefully more questions for than answers – which I hope we could continue to chat about in a conversation face to face.
Lilac Yosiphon, Wellspring Writer 2021 – 2022
Lilac is a freelance writer-director and the artistic director of Althea Theatre. She is passionate about interdisciplinary collaborations and exploring belonging, migration and our perception of home. Writing credits include Home Sweet Home, Stratford Circus, Jackson’s Lane & ARC Stockton; Jericho’s Rose, Hope Theatre and Theatre Deli, Sheffield); One Last Thing (For Now), Old Red Lion Theatre, nominated for an Off-West-End Award for Best Ensemble; and There’s No Place, awarded Outstanding Site Specific, San Diego Fringe 2017.
Wellspring is Vital Xposure’s professional development programme for London-based disabled, d/Deaf and neurodivergent playwrights and script writers, funded by City Bridge Trust and delivered in partnership with Paines Plough, Bush theatre, Theatre 503 and Hampstead Theatre.