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13 Questions: actor David Bower

by Ivy Broadhead

8th April 2010

Radio probably isn’t the first place you'd think to look for a Deaf artist, but actor and performer David Bower - best known for his role as Hugh Grant's deaf brother in the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral - can be heard soon on the audio only medium. Following on from his success in last year's radio adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he now plays Joe in tomorrow's Radio Four afternoon play, A Small Piece of Silence. A detective story with a hint of romance, the drama tries to convey the main character’s experience of deafness and tinnitus through sound.

David's day job is Creative Director of the international dance, music and theatre company Signdance Collective, lead by Deaf and disabled performers. He managed to drag himself away from his various projects (I caught him in Greece doing some academic research on the poem the Jabberwocky) to answer our 13 Questions.

My first job was...

David Bower
With the Signdance Collective, we were called something else then, but that was my first job after finishing my degree which was in the Theatre of the Deaf. Half of the students were deaf and half were hearing, and it was about investigation into expressions of Deaf culture and theatre.

I excel at....

Performing, after twenty years in the business, I think my skill is very much as a performer, on stage, on radio or on screen.

Most people don’t know...

That I’ve always harboured a secret wish to play in a rock and roll or punk band. In the work I’m doing now, on a project called Three Films Plus One, which incorporates dance, music and film, I get to sing. We’re working with some of the best jazz musicians in London, and we’ve even had a song on the NME site, which I never thought would happen in my life. It’s called Listen, and it’s about a relationship which is falling apart. The man is trying so hard to break down the divides, struggling to communicate and failing.

My ideal dinner guests would be...

Jim Carrey; he would be good fun, he really has no fear as a comedian, Tom Waits because he is a very good poet, his lyrics are beautiful, Noam Chomsky, he has such a clear view of what is going on in the world and Naomi Klein, because she’s such a great educator.

What invention would change your life?

Better hearing aids. Dancing is a problem for deaf performers, because hearing aids fall out. Or maybe even underwater hearing aids.
Ralph Ineson and David Bower rehearsing
David Bower and Ralph Ineson rehearsing for A Small Piece Of Silence     &nbsp

I couldn’t live without...

The freedom to create artwork, a world without art would be a totalitarian society. It’s a very powerful medium and it’s very important that we make sure that we continue to have access to art.

My motto is...

Either do it to the full, or don’t do it at all. It’s all or nothing.

What keeps you awake at night?

My tinnitus! Also all of the oppressive things that stop people from being who they want to be.

I’m like my character, Joe...

In that all of the elements of the deafness and tinnitus are based on my disability. I share some of his indignation at the injustices that people experience in the world, but as a detective he definitely has more skill.

A Small Piece of Silence...

Came out of doing the radio play The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Radio Four. The director Susan Roberts suggested a piece be written especially for me. We met with a writer called Katie Hims about 5 or 6 times over the year to try to create a new piece and we talked about how I perceived the world through my deafness and tinnitus.
Ralph Ineson David Bower and Maxine Peake
David Bower, Ralph Ineson and Maxine Peake from A Small Piece Of Silence     &nbsp

We made a Sign Theatre version because…

One of the elements of my training is to try to communicate to a wide and diverse audience. A fully deaf person won’t be able to hear the audio dialogue, but if they have some hearing they might be able to experience both the Sign Drama and the radio play. Radio is such an important part of our cultural landscape; deaf people should have access to it too.

After the part in Four Weddings...

I do still get recognised as Hugh Grant’s brother from time to time. Richard Curtis wanted an actor who was actually deaf in real life to play that role, which I think was particularly enlightened. People ask me why I gave up film acting. I didn’t give it up. I just couldn’t find the parts. I’m hoping that one day deaf actors will be able to play all kinds of parts, not just deaf people.
David Bower and Isolte Avila
David Bower and Isolte Avila from Signdance Collective     &nbsp

The future for Signdance Collective...

We’re about to start work on New Gold, a performance linked to the Olympics. I’ve also been commissioned for another piece by Radio Four; we’ve started looking at doing a biographical piece on a historical Deaf character. Tolstoy, Goya and Lewis Carroll were all Deaf.
A Small Piece Of Silence will air on BBc Radio 4, tomorrow the 9th of April at 2.15 PM and will be available for seven days afterwards on iPlayer. The play's script and a Sign Theatre version will be available at the link above from time of broadcast.


    • 1. At 06:56am on 03 Apr 2010, AndyfromCornwall wrote:

      This is completely inaccessible to deaf people.
      Do you think we don't have sex lives too?

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    • 2. At 6:39pm on 08 May 2010, David Bower wrote:

      Dear Cornishandy , How can you say that the work was inaccesible to Deaf People , when you had not seen it ? You wrote your commenta bove on the 3rd of Aprl and the programme went out on the 9th of April , Please stop your prejudice and support innovation , access creativity and the arts ! Also your comment about Deaf People and sex has nothng to do with what the interview says , and is not even a subject within the work . Actually the Deaf guy , gets the girl ,./ which .. of-course he would ! Take Care ,

      Complain about this comment

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