Speech Sucks: The Future Signs

In all the noise and bustle of Edinburgh during August, this was a refreshing and quiet event. The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas regularly puts on open debates headed by university professors. This one, led by Heriot Watt professors Graham Turner and Gary Quinn, was on the role of sign language in the modern world—do we still need it in an age of electronic communication and cochlear implants? The majority of the audience was signing rather than speaking, and it was quite an experience for the handful of us in the audience who couldn’t sign. For once, the tables were turned and speech didn’t dominate. Fortunately, a quartet of sign language interpreters were on hand to translate for the hearing,

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas will be putting on events throughout the Fringe so go along and discover something equally fascinating.

Turner played devil’s advocate first, arguing that sign language is becoming obsolete and unnecessary in the modern world, but was roundly shouted, (well, signed), down by Quinn and various audience members who ascended the podium to sign or speak their opinions. Next, Quinn and Turner changed sides, though Quinn found arguing against the use of sign language very difficult, as he’s deaf himself. The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ debate-style structure is really just a way getting the audience involved, though—and it worked beautifully, as various attendees were moved to share their own experiences with the value of signing. One man mentioned that though both he and his wife are deaf, their two young children are hearing, but the family has found that using sign language at home helps them pay full attention to each other without the distractions of electronics and outside noise. In my favourite example, another man pointed out that sign language has an expressive value all its own. When you speak the word “bowl,” it only gives so much information about the bowl in question. When signing, one can immediately convey how big the bowl is and what sort of bowl it is. In addition, various others testified to the importance of sign language in the practical world and in the arts; Quinn is also a theatre artist.

This was a lovely and informative community event. I learned a great deal, including the correct way to applaud in sign language: it’s jazz hands raised above your head, and it’s about the expression, not the noise. The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas will be putting on events throughout the Fringe so go along and discover something equally fascinating. 

Reviews by Lauren Moreau

Summerhall

Near Gone

★★★★★
Dance Base

An Invitation...

★★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

She Loves Me

★★★★
Pommery Champagne Cafe Bar

Champagne Tutored Tasting

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

You speak 15,000 words a day. You read 10 times more. You're force-fed 50 gigabytes of data daily. Language is tired: mangled, mauled and meaningless. We've exhausted it. But we can breathe life into language – by learning to sign. Signing opens your mind to a completely different way of seeing life and puts the world in the palm of your hand. And best of all – the machines can't do it. Because when you sign, your body becomes your language. Can Professor Graham Turner (Heriot-Watt University) persuade you to sign up for tomorrow?

Most Popular See More

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets