The last few months have been a very busy time for the Red Bee Signing team, providing live British Sign Language (BSL) for the government’s daily Covid-19 briefings on BBC News as well adapting to a “new normal” in our ways of working. When Sky requested BSL for their new original drama I Hate Suzie, I was delighted to get the chance to translate it.
The drama is getting rave reviews and it’s easy to see why. Starring Billie Piper as the eponymous Suzie Pickles, it is a story about what happens when a celebrity finds themselves the victim of phone hacking and the wide-ranging impact it has on their life and the lives of those around them.
Translating the show into British Sign Language was a challenge, but also great fun. There was a lot of fast-paced, witty dialogue which always poses a challenge for an interpreter. BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax and is not delivered at the same pace or order as spoken English.
However, with the use of non-manual features – movements of the hands and also from movements of the head, shoulders, eyebrows, mouth, cheeks, changes in eye gaze, body shift and so on – I was able to keep up with the dialogue and reflect the tone of the conversations.
It was really exciting to see a deaf child in the cast – representation for the Deaf Community in mainstream TV is always welcome – but what was particularly refreshing was the fact that deafness was not a plot point. Most of the roles created for deaf people tend to be ones that centre around their deafness from a medical perspective or where deaf characters are in a position that requires help.
The character in I Hate Suzie was a deaf child with hearing parents, which meant that it was a logical progression that the family would use sign language to communicate. Again, showing on screen parents who acknowledged that their child would thrive using sign language was fantastic for the BSL community.
It was great to work with the team at Sky on this project and hopefully, lots of BSL users will enjoy the show, which is available now on-demand on Sky and NOW TV. It is estimated that there are 900,000 people in the UK with severe hearing or profound loss, and out of that figure, 87,000 use BSL. Positive representation and inclusion of BSL in the media will go a long way in ensuring that deaf people get that little closer to equality.
Abigail Gorman, BSL Translator
The Red Bee Media team provides over 3,000 hours of BSL per year in the UK, Ireland and Spain, including live signing for the BBC and UK Parliament.