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Wordplay: Captioning at the Belgrade

Posted on 13 November 2018

Did you know that the Belgrade Theatre runs regular captioned performances?

With this week marking Captioning Awareness Week, it felt like the perfect opportunity to recap on what captioning is, how it works, and highlight some upcoming captioned shows to look out for here at the Belgrade.

Captioned performances are primarily designed to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow what is happening on stage. Captioning units are placed in a visible spot at the side of the stage, but out of the way of the performers, to ensure that they don’t interfere with the action on the stage. These units provide subtitles for the dialogue, as well as describing any sound effects or music, for those who might not be able to hear them.

But it’s not only these people who can benefit from captioned performances. Captioning is also useful for anyone who feels they might otherwise have trouble following a play. For example, they might be helpful for those who are learning English as a second language, or simply for anyone who wants to follow the words to a new opera or musical that they’re seeing for the first time.

A trained captioner prepares the captions in advance and checks to make sure that they match the actors’ delivery. The captioner also works closely with the production team, to make sure that any changes to the script are incorporated into the captioning and they also add sound effects and offstage noises.

At the performance, the captioner cues the lines as the action unfolds on stage. If there are any changes to what is in the script, if an actor ad-libs, or misses a line, the captioner makes sure the relevant lines are added or taken away so that the captions follow exactly what is being said.

Timing of the captions is very important so as not to have text come up too soon, especially if the text involves a key punchline or joke. It is also important that the text does not fall behind the actors’ speech because then things that the actors are doing won’t make sense, and people can’t ‘hear’ them in real time.

If you’d like to come and experience a captioned show for yourself, we have several captioned performances coming up over the next few months, including Sleeping Beauty, The Verdict, Octopus Soup!, The House on Cold Hill and The Full Monty, to name but a few. You can find a full list of forthcoming captioned shows here.

To ensure you have the best possible experience, please advise box office when booking your seats that you would like to make use of the captions, so that they can ensure you’re placed in seats with a good view of the captioning unit.