Immersive, Creative, Inclusive

Areas of cross-fertilization between accessible captions for D/deaf audiences for the stage and for the screen




captions, subtitles , theatre, accessibility, technology, immersive, creativity, integration, audism


In a deliberate and valiant effort to adapt to the conditions created by the recent pandemic, many theatre companies across the globe shifted their activities from the stage to online video platforms. But in releasing large portions of their back-catalogues at speed, opportunities to make such shows accessible have been under-exploited. This migration has created an unprecedented opportunity to examine the way accessible practices are transferred from stage to screen and has brought into sharp focus the somewhat inadequate provision for accessibility of online video platforms. While the very practice of making these shows available online, often at no cost to the viewer, has made them more socially accessible, practical accessibility for portions of the audience, such as the D/deaf community, has often been ignored or addressed in a low fidelity way. Through lack of time, lack of expertise or lack of resources, many companies have resorted to the use of auto-captioning tools, or the most basic of captions. Rarely do such captions come close to capturing the creativity of the shows they represent. This paper represents a call to arms for the development of bespoke tools to support better, more immersive and creative, retroactive captioning of stage productions presented as videos.

Lay Summary

In this article, we discuss how videos of stage performances can be subtitled in a way that is accurate and that preserves the creativity original performances. The recent pandemic forced theatre companies to adapt or perish. With playhouses closed, some companies moved their activities online. They either released old footage of their past shows and performances on video platforms such as YouTube but did not necessarily have the time or the right tools to make these videos accessible to members of the D/deaf community. One the one hand, their shows are more easily accessed since they can be found online, but on the other hand, whole sections of the general public, such as D/deaf people, still cannot accessed these videos because they are not subtitled. Most video platforms have built-in tools that can generate subtitles automatically, but these are not very precise and do not help to convey the creativity of the performances. The tools that are currently available are therefore not suitable and new tools need to be developed to provide access to D/deaf people and do justice to the performances.


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Author Biographies

Pierre-Alexis Mevel, University of Nottingham

Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével is Associate Professor in Translation Studies at the University of Nottingham and is the creator and director of the MA in Translation Studies. He teaches Translation Theory and Audiovisual Translation at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. He is the author of a monograph entitled 'Can We Do the Right Thing? Subtitling African American English into French (Peter Lang, 2017) and has published extensively in the field of audiovisual translation. He has a particular interest in the representations of non-standard varieties in visual media, and on creative captioning for the screen as well as live performances.

Jo Robinson, Newcastle University

Jo Robinson is Professor of Theatre and Performance and Head of the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University (UK). Her research cycles between theatre history and historiography and work on twentieth/twenty-first century theatre and performance – always with a particular focus on the relationships between place, community and audience. She is interested in the capacity of digital humanities as broadly conceived, both in terms of creating innovative digital histories and working with augmented reality to enhance the accessibility of live performance.

Paul Tennent, University of Nottingham

Dr Paul Tennent is an Assistant Professor in the Mixed Reality Laboratory at The University of Nottingham with a long track record of developing internationally recognised immersive experiences with artists and cultural heritage institutions. He leads or participates in a number of projects around hybrid physical-digital interactions, across several interdisciplinary collaborations from art, culture and history, to engineering, to education and accessibility.




How to Cite

Mevel, P.-A., Robinson, J., & Tennent, P. (2022). Immersive, Creative, Inclusive: Areas of cross-fertilization between accessible captions for D/deaf audiences for the stage and for the screen. Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 5(2), 176–193.