News: Cast announced for new BSL-integrated musical The Princess and the Pauper

The cast has been announced for the exciting new family musical, The Princess and the Pauper. Leading this fully BSL-integrated production will be Rhiannon Jones (Silent Witness, BBC) as Tess Canty and Hannah Brownlie (The Offenders, Amazon) as Bess Tudor. They will be joined by David King Yombo (The Visit, National Theatre), Alex Scott Fairley (Blood Brothers, West End and UK tour) and Julie Wood (Radio Sea Breeze, TV).

Tess Canty and Elizabeth Tudor may look alike, but their lives could hardly be more different. Elizabeth is Princess and heir to the throne; Tess is a miserable pauper. That is, until one day fate intervenes. For a while, each must see how the other lives. This exciting new production enhances the magic and musicality of the story with British Sign Language and incorporates deaf* and hearing actors, BSL-inspired choreography and sign song. Suitable for the whole family, this is an entertaining and rollicking tale of mistaken identities.

In-keeping with the story which interrogates a society plagued by inequities, Hordern Ciani has worked to create an equal experience through the production. By gender swapping the title roles and by including a deaf actress among the small cast of five, the company has created more equality on stage. The inclusion of an integrated interpreter and the choreographing of all songs with sign song has created an equal experience for deaf and hearing audiences.

Katherine Mount, producer with Hordern Ciani, comments, As a professional actress and singer with a deaf child, I was profoundly affected by my initial belief that Ethan would never be able to access music. Alongside advice to keep background noise to a minimum to encourage listening skills, when Ethan was still a baby, I stopped playing music and found singing an emotional impossibility for years. But when sign song came along, it was life changing. Ethan joined The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children at the age of six and it was a revelation. Not only did he discover music for the first time, he also gained a new form of expression and had opportunity to perform in amazing venues, culminating in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics 2012 and his very own CBBC documentary. After many years of struggling to find accessible shows to take my son to watch, producing theatre myself and experimenting with the use of British Sign Language in song, the idea for a fully integrated musical was developed and The Princess and the Pauper was born.

Director Robert Marsden adds, I am delighted to be returning to direct for Hordern Ciani once more. Reframing the Mark Twain story with a re-gendered approach and setting it in Elizabeth I’s reign allows for a fresh telling. The piece is about survival, and the fear that comes with seemingly not being able to survive outside of your own world, class, and environment, which of course these characters learn that they are able to do. Our production goes back to the origins of storytelling: our six actors, including deaf and hearing actors and integrated signers, tell the story of these two young girls, thrust into new situations, aiming to return to their original habitats, forging new friendships as they come of age and understand the world around them.

Producing company, Hordern Ciani, is grateful for its support from Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund.

  • The company uses the term deaf to include individuals with all levels of deafness.

Individual tickets are available priced from £18-£8 and family tickets from £28-£44 at


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