Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Philosophical and impactful storytelling duet about trauma and how we understand words and meaning. Stylised movement and a fascinating transporting performance.
Two women sit on stools, poised above their beautiful billowing long skirts amid stacks of pages of neatly scrolled paper that unfolds as they speak. The scene is angelic, of a beautiful place somewhere else. Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah share the bilingual performance as MacLaine, the author, speaks the esoteric text clearly and Nadarajah signs with BSL. The text is philosophical – how do you know how to spell out a name? As they ring little bells and move on to the next thought we learn that words cannot describe trauma. Speaking steadily and deliberately in a part spoken word and part clinical way MacLaine states that this is all about taking a leap of faith. Bad stuff happened.
Through realistic and symbolic motifs they tell this fascinating story – or maybe it’s more of a report – in a detached, warm, yet matter of fact style. The rapport between the two women is mesmerising and symbiotic. Nadarajah translates into BSL every word and both are compelling to watch, but at times they disagree. Using images and diagrams they earnestly put forth their ideas and differences, which adds another interesting layer to this complex piece.
Sometimes they use arm gestures that are decisive, precise, graceful and abstract. This addition of physical expression, while sitting still and confidently on stools makes the performance out of the ordinary and takes us somewhere but we’re not sure where. Bright eye contact is alive and always focused on the audience except in the brief times they relate to each other in the ritualistic way they settle for a moment then start reading out a new page.
Maclaine is like a cipher, getting into our mind with questions and information. Language, message and meaning – how does it all work? These days when texts and emails are quick and easy to communicate the questions posed take us back to thinking, speaking and asking ourselves where language comes from – and more importantly, how we know what it all means. Astute, perfectly timed and well performed, this piece is very well crafted, it’s also charming, disarming, moving, with flashes of humour and makes an excellent case for believing people – moreover believing them when they have experienced trauma. But can we restore the whole? How can we start again? This piece is an enlightening and impactful way to treat this subject. It’s not over dramatic or emotional, in fact almost the opposite, which is genius.