“Hello, good afternoon… and I’ll just pause whilst that is interpreted”. Can I Start Again Please is a show of just that, interpretation. Winner of the Total Theatre Award 2015, this show examines the power of language, and often its failings. In collaboration with The Changing Minds Festival, this show is unique, powerful and thought provoking.
The Sue MacLaine Company presents a show that discusses the capacity of language to represent traumatic experience, in particular childhood sexual violence. The piece is unique in concept, as it is performed in a combination of English and British Sign Language. The show poses the question of ‘how such experiences are understood, translated and communicated.’ The piece specifically explores the aftermath of trauma; about how we survive and try to make sense of it. It interrogates the words that cannot be said, cannot be expressed. The show looks at the dialogue between English and British Sign Language, analytically engaging with context, theory of language and conversation. The limits of language are highlighted throughout, with the repetition of “does it translate? and “don’t translate that!”
As part of The Changing Minds Festival, this show communicates a thematically engaged text, demonstrating the Arts and Mental Health festival focus. The show is set in a black box studio space, with minimalistic lighting. The set includes a long scroll with both written and actioned text, performed throughout the show. Both actors are dressed in long dresses, somewhat denoting a traditional essence in tonal brown and white. The construction of the production also features physical theatre, which is often expressed through the medium of British Sign Language. This forms an interesting dialogue and language of the body, as it connotes real meanings, and definitions. The movement draws parallels throughout, providing an essence of ‘sense making’. The physicality of the performance represents the connection between the two performers, with the show ending, holding hands, symbolic of the unity finally achieved.
Can I Start Again Please, is a production that “Let’s the silence speak” which can often appear a barrier to the audience in both terms of understanding and accessibility towards the story and narrative. Although, it can be argued that this is the production’s function and purpose, embodying the concept of the limits of language and interpretation. A stern and rigid quality is often enforced within the production, creating an atmosphere of tension. However, there are moments of comedy which lighten the mood and bring you back to the narrative arc. Throughout the piece there is a real sense of commitment by both Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah, demonstrating a possession of the content and text being performed.
This production is minimalistic but offers symbolism that is deepened by the naturalistic quality presented on stage. The construction of meaning conveyed throughout, although interpretive is impassioned and intensely felt. Furthermore, the interaction between both performers and performer to audience is wholehearted. Can I Start Again Please offers natural interaction, content and movement purpose, identifiable in its artistic choices. However, I believe this show is sombre, questioning its audience age and universality.
This production is truly unique in concept and identity; it is a production that offers opportunity for language to be explored through the narrative of traumatic experiences. The sense of investment throughout is enduring and truly emotional, including a sincere ending. The naturalistic nature of the piece, however dotted with symbolism, creates a dialogue of interpretation and translation. I leave the production contemplating the power of language, analytically reflecting on experiences of misinterpretation, communication and translation. 3.5/5
Review written by Meg Mattravers.
Can I Start Again Please was shown at the Southbank Centre on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th February as part of this year’s Changing Minds Festival. For more information on the Sue MacLaine Company, visit here…