by Deafinitely Theatre.
Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 20 October 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 October.
Visually beautiful and acclimatised to its own language.
At the end of this performance, audience members did one of two things: clapped their hands or raised both arms in a cheer. It’s a sign of the production’s nature, for Deafinitely Theatre is what its title says. So there has to be the caution in judgement that comes with productions in any language you don’t understand. What the spectator with ears to hear perceives might not be what someone sees by visual means.
What’s a tendency to gestural style and mime for someone hearing the words about half the cast speak, might be utter naturalism to someone taking-in largely or entirely through visual means. There can be resemblances at times to silent film acting and, as The Artist reminded filmgoers recently, what had seemed natural to silent-cinema goers soon began to seem false when words could be heard.
Usually someone with considerable hearing loss or without any hearing is the one being supported at Signed or Captioned performances. Here, they’re on home territory and it is fascinating to be invited in.
Though that’s where home territory ends, for the play this company have created is about an immigrant’s journey. Based on an actual account of travel from Sri Lanka to Britain, Tanika’s Journey isn’t set among hot or tepid climes at the start or end, but in a wintery snow-bound landscape in Ukraine – created visually by placing two banks of audience at an angle either side of the stage, the snow-covered floor between giving way to an icy under-surface when trodden, as bare twigs poke up from wooded sections either end. The angles create a sense of endlessness, while parallel beams of white light shine horizontally across the stage, giving a cold intensity.
As Tanika, struggling to follow the guide who leads with gruff authority through this terrain, speaking a language foreign to her, recalls past safety or future hopes, the lighting alters to a warm, embracing orange. But white reality always returns, as Nadia Nadarajah conveys the strength and doubts of a person for whom travelling hopefully is challenged by the temptation to give up all hope.
Tanika: Nadia Nadarajah.
Edward: Matthew Gurney.
Ama: Mouna Albakry.
Niranjan: Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke.
Vanko: Graeme Brookes.
Director: Paula Garfield.
Designer/Costume: Simon Daw.
Lighting: Ben Rogers.
Sound: Philippa Herrick.
Movement: Naomi Said.
Literary associate: Andrew Muir.