Deafinitely Theatre is proud to have supported 26 deaf or hard of hearing freelance theatre practitioners and performers during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to funding from the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund.

26 recipients, at various stages in their careers, have received £1000 to develop their practice in 2021 along with networking sessions and keeping-in-touch sessions to monitor their personal development.

The following 26 artists represent just a fraction of the wide-ranging, diverse deaf talent in our industry and the company is excited to support their personal development on innovative theatre projects and initiatives and showcase their work on this website.

You can watch the inspiring work the Bursary group have created here. Videos from the recipients of the second round of the Bursary will be added in autumn 2021. 

If you are interested in the work of any of the Bursary recipients and would like to find out more or be put in touch with them, please contact us at [email protected]

The bursary recipients

Stephanie Back

Stephanie is a Deaf actor, theatre maker and workshop leader based in Cardiff. She is the lead facilitator for Taking Flight’s Youth Theatre for Deaf and Hard of Hearing young people. Since studying Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies at Reading University, she has performed with various theatre companies including Taking Flight Theatre, National Theatre Wales, Mousetrap Theatre, Illumine Theatre, PAD Productions and Handprint Theatre. She has also studied clowning training with John Wright. Stephanie has been working on her show Fow (previously known as I Said I Love You) since 2017 alongside Elise Davison and Alun Saunders. She also leads Deaf awareness training. 

Stephanie will use her bursary to develop her show Fow and further her skills in translation, presenting work online and reaching Deaf audiences.

Rinkoo Barpaga 

Rinkoo is a theatre maker, stand-up comedian, actor, filmmaker and TV presenter. His award-winning documentary Double Discrimination was filmed in Handsworth, Birmingham, interviewing the Deaf community, using urban sign language to describe race discrimination. Rinkoo bravely uses his artistic practice to tackle taboo subjects and confront audiences with difficult issues. He has made two solo shows, Am I Funny? The Life and Signs of a Deaf Comedian (2015) and Made in India / Britain (2019), both funded by Arts Council England. In 2017, Rinkoo was awarded an Unlimited R&D to explore this new play, Bubble and Butch.

Rinkoo will use his bursary to build on his Visual Vernacular training and develop a clowning piece that he will eventually present in outdoor urban spaces, aiming to reach new audiences, particularly young Asian and black communities who traditionally do not attend the theatre for recreation.


Duffy made his way into the industry at a young age and has since been in several productions both on stage and screen. He is a visual language enthusiast, having experimented with physical theatre and film visual grammar. He acted in Deafinitely Theatre’s production of 4.48 Psychosis, co-created Small World and the concept of Nu Visual (combining traditional mime with Visual Vernacular) with Ace Mahbaz, was Assistant Director to Sarah Bedi on The Process and has been a consultant on Royal Shakespeare Company productions and Netflix’s The Witcher and The Last Kingdom. 

This bursary will enable Duffy to write a new play and hone his writing and storytelling skills.

Katie Erich

Katie trained as part of Deafinitely Theatre’s Youth Company in 2018-2019 and at the National Youth Theatre. She made her professional theatre debut in 2020 in the Leeds Playhouse and Ramps on the Moon production of Oliver Twist, for which she was nominated for a Stage Debut Award for Best Performer in a Play. 

Katie will use the bursary to develop her BSL performance skills, working toward BSL Level 6, and expand her experience in translating scripts.

Christopher Fonseca

Christopher Fonseca is a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher and deaf ambassador who works extensively in the UK, Europe and internationally.While studying at the University of Wolverhampton from 2009 to 2013, Christopher joined ‘Def Motion’ a collective established with support from Deaffest -the UK's annual deaf film festival. Since graduating, Christopher has accomplished a diverse range of professional activities and achievements, beginning in 2012, with an appearance in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Recent projects include Smirnoff, The GreatestDancer (BBC), Samsung, Strictly Come Dancing, Facebook App and Chase the Great campaign (LinkedIn), Magic Hands (Cbeebies).

Christopher will use his bursary to develop and present a day of professional dance and physical theatre training, discussions, skill-sharing and networking for the deaf dance community to support the next generation of artists.

Richard France

Richard is a freelance creative practitioner specialising in writing on mental health issues and a soundscape artist. His career has been in the technical side of event productions working with bands, providing live subtitles at venues and working as Project Manager on theatrical projects. He works with students at FE and HE level providing theory translations into BSL. He has had four books published and released four albums while collaborating with Peter Hope in Vienna, Austria. He has performed at the Electro Festival in Geneva and currently works on shaping sonic frequencies to enable people to feel rather than hear sounds.

The bursary will enable Richard to work with deaf dancers to see how dance can develop through sensory feeling and sonic sounds, exploring an area that he hasn’t worked on before, and opening up opportunities to work with contemporary dancers on his own project.

Fifi Garfield

Fifi began her acting career aged 19 with an amateur group called London Deaf Drama Group. Her first professional role was in London Bubble’s 1994 UK tour of Emma directed by Adrian Jackson. She has since appeared in over 20 TV and theatre productions. One of her highlights was playing Hermia in Deafinitely Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Paula Garfield at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2014. She currently works freelance in creative media as a camera person, editor, director and translator (from English to BSL). 

Fifi will utilise her bursary for the research and development of a solo play or stand-up comedy routine, as part of which she will get training from experienced stand-up comedy professionals.

Ben Glover 

Ben is a deaf video designer who uses interdisciplinary skills in both creative and technical fields producing innovative and often expressive creations typically informed by his background in theatre and computing. He has developed a particular interest in work that explores contemporary issues and more personal topics such as his deafness. His recent work includes video designs for Mee And The Band (Eventim Apollo), Hear My Soul Speak (RADA), Americana (Hellenic Centre) and Vessel of Light (Burning Man Festival). He received the Mead Fellowship award for his Virtual Reality project Simple Misunderstanding.

This bursary will enable Ben to develop creative captioning video design for a new production and train in Notch and Cinema 4D technology to expand his skills and creative portfolio.  

Kelsey Gordon

Kelsey is an actress, facilitator and storyteller based in South East London. She graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education. Her work as an actor includes Messy (Zoo Co Theatre), Listen (BFI Film Academy short film), Pretty Bop (R.A.E music video), And Others (Graeae play reading), FGM (Sign Health awareness video) and Reverberation (BSL Zone).She has also worked with Handprint Theatre and Mousetrap, leading and assisting workshops for children.

Kelsey will use her funding to support her training as a director, including training, workshop and shadowing opportunities.

Nadeem Islam

Nadeem trained in Community Art Practice and Theatre at the BRIT School before graduating in 2015.He is known for his work in comedy improvisation, acting and TV presenting and his credits include Small World (BSL Zone), See Hear, on Tour (BBC See Hear), Here/Not Her(Artemisia Films) and the soon to be released The BaySeason 3 (ITV). Nadeem was nominated for the Best Actor in UK Deaf Film/TV award by Deaffest for his performance in Where I Belongand for his work on See Hearby the RTS Awards for On Screen Talent. Nadeem’s recent stage credits include Horrible Histories -Dreadful Deaf (Deafinitely Theatre), Oliver Twist (Leeds Playhouse) and Blasted (Graeae/RADA).

This bursary will support Nadeem to develop his experience as a writer and performer with mentorship from an Asian screenwriter and to devise a dark comedy monologue for film based on his experience of racism.

Alim Jayda 

Alim Jayda is a hard of hearing, mixed Indian-English, LGBT actor, presenter and sign language interpreter who is a passionate advocate for Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts. With more than ten years industry experience, he’s used his extensive contacts to campaign to get BSL levels added onto the Spotlight portal and recently pulled together, created and launched the 'Guide to Good Practice with BSL in the Arts' with Equity, Deafinitely Theatre and various Deaf friends and creatives (

Recent acting credits include: Eastenders (BBC), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal), Kismet Diner (Ridley Scott Films), The Boy in the Dress (The Royal Shakespeare Company), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe and Deafinitely Theatre), Tommy (Ramps on the Moon) and various commercials including Apple, Smirnoff and Pizza Hut.

This bursary will enable Alim to create a new digital platform, Released Voices, which will present a series of stories and experiences from underrepresented deaf voices and minorities.

Sahera Khan

Sahera is a Muslim, Deaf and a BSL user. As a writer/creator, artist/actor, poet, filmmaker and YouTuber she has created solo shows, videos and live performances. She has worked with Wonky Table Theatre, created a digital play, The Cockerel and the Fox, made a short film, Faith, (which received awards from international film festivals) and presented for BSL Zone. Sahera was part of Deafinitely Theatre’s Writers Hub project and has written poems, short films, scripts, stories and published Kindle books. She is a Trustee of the Deaf Ethnic Women’s Association. 

Sahera will use her bursary for the research and development of a new short play about deaf women in prison and develop her skills as a writer.

Ace Mahbaz 

Ace is an artist from Iran, currently residing in London and Berlin, fluent in six sign languages and International Sign. In his career as an actor, writer and director he has worked for a number of sign language theatre companies such as Teater Manu (Oslo), Riksteater Crea (Stockholm), International Visual Theatre (Paris) and Deafinitely Theatre (UK) and was in the creative team for Festival Clin d'Oeil from 2011 to 2015. Throughout his career he has also performed solo shows including stand-up. Ace is currently producing documentaries for German Channel BR (Munich) and directing/consulting the physical and Visual Vernacular aspects for over 10 productions in both video and on stage.

This bursary will enable Ace to develop his writing skills, exploring the concept of masculinity in the deaf community and what it means to be a deaf man.

Maral Mamaghani

Maral is a deaf Iranian artist. Her work explores the barriers she encounters in everyday life, being deaf, female and a refugee. Maral’s artwork combines feminism and cultural politics and as both an artist and a narrator she depicts the wearer's character through the story of her jewellery. The primary material that she uses to create jewellery is human hair, though recently she has been exploring ceramic materials. Her international, cross cultural experiences have developed her interpersonal and critical skills as well as improving her level of understanding of contemporary Jewellery & Crafts. After completing an MA in 2017 she became a political refugee and her work The Politics of Voice; The Tale of Tressesdirectly challenged the patriarchal society in Iran. Maral has now been granted permanent leave to remain in the UK.

Maral will use her bursary to research a live art performance installation for an outdoor space, centered on her intersectionality and status as a deaf female refugee. Experimenting with lighting, sound and structure, Maral will research and develop a performance concept for outdoor festivals.

Harri Marshall

Harri is a deaf director based in York. She has received training from the Young Vic, RTYDS and the Bristol Old Vic. Harri has an affinity for contemporary theatre including new writing, adaptation and verbatim theatre and has directed nine shows. She is an advocate for D/deaf and disabled creatives and is a self-proclaimed proactive busy body!

This bursary will give Harri the opportunity to undertake R&D on a new verbatim piece that explores the search for human connection in an increasingly digitized world. 

Craig McCulloch

Craig McCulloch is an actor, director, translator, BSL consultant and workshop leader based in Scotland. He graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2018 and was part of the first cohort in the ground-breaking new BA Performance in BSL/English course. Craig’s ambition is to create visual work for both deaf and hearing audiences so they are able to enjoy a story by sharing an universal visual language. His first step in creating this work was collaborating with Connor Bryson on Blackout, a visual and physical comedy show presented at the Manipulate Festival in Edinburgh 2020.

This bursary will enable Craig to develop a new visual show, including R&D with two performers, building his skills as a writer and director.

Zoë McWhinney

Zoë is a Visual Vernacular performer and a BSL-English poet, working as a theatre maker, consultant and workshop facilitator for BSL storytelling and poetry. She competed in several national and international Visual Vernacular championships both online (including Pedius and Erwan's VV World) and onstage (including the national led by BDAY and the European Deaf Youth Capital in Stockholm). She is an alumni of the Ecole de Théâtre Universelle, having studied there for two years in Toulouse.

Zoë’s Bursary will enable her to experiment with cutting edge musical equipment and develop her Visual Vernacular performance skills.

Colly Metcalfe

Colly is a deaf performer from Teesside. With a long history of performance in both mainstream and disability theatre, she has performed in festivals, outdoor site-specific productions, radio and a music video. After joining a writing group, Colly started to explore her own narrative using poetry and performing it using a mix of spoken English, performance BSL, music and sometimes using only BSL, leaving the actual meaning of her work down to individual interpretation. She enjoys signed singing, samba drumming and loves bonsai. She always wears her socks inside out.

This bursary will help Colly to research, write and rehearse new material in BSL and English for performances in the North of England and to develop her digital skills for online work. 

Chisato Minamimura

Chisato is a Deaf performance artist, choreographer and BSL art guide. Born in Japan, now based in London, Chisato has created, performed and taught internationally, including three years as a company member of CandoCo Dance Company (2003-2006). She has been involved in aerial performances with Graeae Theatre Company, London’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony and Rio’s 2016 Paralympic Cultural Olympiad. Chisato approaches choreography and performance making from her unique perspective as a Deaf artist, experimenting and exploring the visualisation of sound and music. By using dance and digital technology, Chisato aims to share her experiences of sensory perception and human encounters.   

Chisato will use the bursary to further explore the Visual Vernacular performance style, with the use of sign and mime, with highly respected deaf performers and develop her performance skills.  

Julian Peedle-Calloo

Julian is a London-based deaf actor. He trained on the Mountview Theatre School summer course and helped set up and took part in a short course for deaf actors at The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. He has also trained in the Meisner Technique with Scott Williams, as well as Beru Tessema from RADA. His credits include Holby City and New Tricks for the BBC, several short films including Louder than Words and Hamlet for Shakespeare’s Globe’s BSL synopsis online series. Julian’s theatre work includes playing Deaf icon Laurent Clerc for Dreamatorium. 

Julian will use his bursary to work with a deaf playwright to develop a new short play about the impacts of Covid-19 on the deaf community, which could be filmed for digital broadcast

Jamie Rea

Jamie is a Deaf artist and performer, raised in Northern Ireland and living in Glasgow. His first language is British Sign language. He was a member of the first cohort of students in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Performance in BSL and English, graduating in 2018. He is now on a producer placement funded by the Federation of Scottish Theatre. He has collaborated with cultural organisations across England, including Fuel and Deafinitely Theatre, and Scotland, including National Theatre of Scotland, BUZZCUT, Take Me Somewhere, Raw Material and Solar Bear. He has also worked as a BSL consultant (including embedding access, hosting and promotion) and workshop leader. 

Jamie will use the bursary to develop a new interdisciplinary digital performance developing his skills as a performer, visual artist, filmmaker and painter.

Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford

Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford is a theatre maker and workshop facilitator, passionate about Deaf theatre and empowering people through the use of theatre and drama. Mary-Jayne has worked as a freelance drama facilitator, workshop leader, scriptwriter, BSL story-teller, workshop leader and theatre director. She worked with the Technical Theatre BSL glossary project and has facilitated workshops at 3D (Derby Deaf Drama), DaDaFest, InteGreat Theatre and Vamos Theatre. She founded DeDrama Theatre in 2012, which she will re-establish through this bursary.

This bursary will help Mary-Jayne explore the feasibility of setting up a deaf community theatre group in the Midlands with a research project including a series of online taster workshops

Rebecca Saffir

Rebecca is a playwright and performer originally from Sydney, Australia and now based in London. Since graduating from East 15 Acting School, she has increasingly turned her attention to playwriting. She was a member of the Royal Court's Introduction to Playwriting Group and the Deafinitely Theatre/Royal Court's Writers Group in 2018. Her debut play, Baby, was produced for the Clapham Fringe Festival (2019), awarded a Testing Ground Commission from the New Wolsey Theatre and longlisted for Theatre503's International Playwriting Award (2020.) She co-wrote SINK UP, a short-film/digital theatre hybrid for the Virtual Collaborators Festival 2020. In 2021 she is focused on further development of Baby, and the early development of two new works.

Rebecca will use her bursary to research and write two new plays developing her experience of two contrasting forms: a large, multi-lingual ensemble piece and a monologue.

Deepa Shastri

Deepa has worked in the arts and cultural sector on various levels for the last 20 years as an actress, BSL consultant, director of artistic sign language, project manager and associate producer. She has worked with prestigious British theatre companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court, Battersea Arts Centre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Globe Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and on exciting projects such as managing different commissions for Unlimited during the London Olympics and DaDaFest. Her first professional theatre producing experience was The Process with Baz Productions at the Bunker Theatre. Deepa is also an expert on deaf and hard of hearing audience development and has specialist knowledge in theatre access solutions for deaf people.

Deepa’s bursary will allow her to develop her knowledge of casting and creative producing and gain professional experience in these areas which have little involvement from deaf professionals. 

Otis Waby

Otis Waby is a writer and an actor. He trained at LAMDA and has acted in theatre, TV and film for companies including Big Talk and ITV. In recent years he has worked with Story Pocket Theatre and Interactive Theatre International, performing at the Edinburgh Festival and touring across the UK and Australia. As a fledgeling writer, his short play was staged at The Hen & Chickens Theatre and a rehearsed reading of his first full length play was produced by Bandstand Productions with a cast including Siobhan Finneran and Kit Harrington.

Otis will use his bursary to fund the writing of a new play inspired by his tinnitus and mental health, interviewing other creatives that suffer from similar issues and exploring how this affects and inspires their creativity. 

Evie Waddell

Evie is a deaf Gaelic and Scots singer, clarsach player, step dancer and fiddler from Stirlingshire. She recently graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a BMus in Traditional Music. She learned her Gaelic through the Gaelic-medium school system.Evie has performed with WHɎTE in the play MAIM by Theatre Gu Leòrwhere she developed her skills in British Sign Language, acting, music and dance. In 2017 Evie received an HNC in contemporary dance from the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. As a multimedia performerEvie is interested in projects that focus on marginalised communities, lives and experiences.Evie will use her funding to create a new piece of work that explores the connections between BSL and Gaelic cultures using traditional song, stories and dance, collaborating with BSL theatre makers and dancers.

Evie will use her funding to create a new piece of work that explores the connections between BSL and Gaelic cultures using traditional song, stories and dance, collaborating with BSL theatre makers and dancers.