The regional premiere of Nina Raine’s Tribes comes to Sheffield’s Crucible Studio later this month.
Originally commissioned for the Royal Court Theatre, Tribes was directed by Roger Michell, and enjoyed a sell-out run and won an Offie Award for Best New Play. It was also nominated for both Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best New Play.
Now directed by Kate Hewitt, winner of the inaugural RTST Director Award Scheme, Tribes stars Ciaran Stewart, Emily Howlett, Simon Rouse, Lindy Whiteford, Oliver Johnstone and Louisa Connolly-Burnham.
The play focuses on a comically dysfunctional Jewish British family, made up of the parents Beth and Christopher and three grown children living at home, Daniel, Ruth and Billy, the last of whom is deaf, raised to read lips and speak but without knowledge of sign language.
When Billy meets Sylvia, a hearing woman born to deaf parents who is now slowly going deaf herself, his interaction with her (including her teaching him sign language) reveals some of the languages, beliefs, and hierarchies of the family and the “extended family” of the deaf community.
Kate Hewitt directs this regional premiere about the need we all feel to belong, and to be understood.
Nina Raine explained in a 2010 interview that the idea of writing the play came to her after she saw a documentary about a deaf couple who were expecting a child, and they said that they hoped their child would be deaf.
She said that it occurred to her that a family was a tribe, whose members wanted to pass on values, beliefs and language to their children.
She began to see that there were “tribes everywhere,” in groups including individual families and religious communities, with their own rituals and hierarchies that are hard to understand by “outsiders.”
Nina Raine’s plays include Rabbit (Old Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios – Charles Wintour Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, Critics’ Circle Award for most Promising Playwright) and Tiger County (Hampstead Theatre – also directed).
Tribes runs from June 29 – July 22 with opening night scheduled for July 3.