Where No One Sense Takes Priority: ‘Scored in Silence’

Imagine being in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb dropped. Now imagine having no way to hear it. Scored in Silence is an excellent solo show, starring Deaf performer, Chisato Minamimura, and was performed as part of the Festival of Live Digital Art (FOLDA) at the Isabel Bader Centre. The performance recounts World War II and the effects of the atomic bomb on Japan, but more specifically how it affected the Deaf community in Hiroshima. There is the lead-up to the dropping of the bomb, how the people of Japan were affected, and the show recounts the pain Deaf people experienced in the atrocity’s aftermath. 

Chisato Minamimura shines as the solo lead, encapsulating the emotion and pain the people of Hiroshima felt the day of the atomic bomb and long after. With articulate movement and facial expressions, she had me captivated through re-tells of Deaf survivors’ stories. I never found myself with wandering eyes the entire runtime of one hour, 30 minutes. A large part of this is due to her acting, but also through the immersive nature of the performance.

Scored in Silence uses animation, vibrations, sign language, visual vernacular, voiceovers, and documentary footage of Deaf survivors to immerse an audience. With these varying mediums, it can be easy to pull one’s attention from the performance itself, but each balanced  the other in a way that made it exciting every time a new one was introduced. 

My personal favourite of the mediums was the use of simple animations, by Dave Packer, to create scenes instead of using props like traditional theatre. Minamimura acts behind a Holo-Gauze screen which also displays animations or video footage. These animations varied from a cockpit of an American Boeing aircraft about to drop the atomic bomb to a simple barber shop. This was the first time I have ever seen this before and I loved every minute of it. 

The show itself is a fantastic feat in its accessibility to Deaf and Visually Impaired people. Minamimura uses sign language throughout the play (with a voice-over for listening audience members) and there are assistive listening devices for people with visual impairment. Vibration devices are given to almost all audience members which one straps around their stomach like a belt or holds in their hands. Devices vibrate at certain points throughout the show, creating another level of immersion. As described by a member of the production team during a Question and Answer after the show, it creates a situation where no one sense takes priority. 

A moment I found incredibly interesting was when the Atomic bomb dropped—one would expect the vibration device to vibrate tenfold. But it did not. It was silent. This use of the device was unexpected, but impacted me in a way I didn’t think it would. As described by Minamimura in the Q and A, she explained that this was a creative choice. In 1945 when the bomb first touched down on Hiroshima it generated a split second of silence.

One drawback of the immersivity was that not every audience member had a vibration device due to the number of devices available. I do believe that the show is enjoyable without this, but it definitely adds a level of immersion to the experience and I would have been disappointed had I not received one. Since there is not much dialogue throughout the performance it forces an audience member to really focus on the visual elements of the show. This task allows a viewer to experience the show from a Deaf person’s point of view on a very small scale. This was incredibly interesting but the storyline did lack linearity, in turn causing confusion for me during certain parts.

Following a performance, I always ask myself, “what have I learned?” When I left this performance, I acknowledged two new perspectives. The first is about how survivors in Hiroshima were affected by the atomic bomb—I never realized how they were discriminated against by other regions in Japan due to their closeness to radiation. The second is about how those who are deaf see the world. Due to their loss of hearing, the severity of something as massive as an atomic bomb being dropped on their city did not dawn on some of them until long after. I would never have imagined how difficult it would be for them to gather critical information, such as medical benefits, due to them being cut out of communication channels. This newfound knowledge is something I will carry with me and would not have been achieved without seeing this show.

‘Scored in Silence’ played at FOLDA on June 7, 2023 and more information can be found here. Details on performer Chisato Minamimura can be found here.

This article was edited on December 1st, 2023 to update formatting.