Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Can I Start Again Please, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Pollock.
It’s slow going, this one-woman show for two women as presented by the Sue MacLaine Company, but that’s precisely the point. Nadia Nadarajah is the one giving the monologue here, and MacLaine is the one interpreting it. Nadarajah is deaf, and she tells her story in silence, hands flashing in front of her as she signs, lips moving wordlessly while she does so. Alongside her sits MacLaine, calm and gently comforting, repeating those words in a benign, hypnotic drawl.
The pair wear beautiful gowns, and there’s something indefinably angelic about them, about the way their combined delivery soothes and coaxes. Yet the measured pace and the gentleness are only what we see and hear, they aren’t what’s going on inside Nadarajah’s head. Look at her expression; she pleads and shouts and we can’t hear her, only the gentle flick of her hands and MacLaine’s buzzing tones. We also experience the piece at the pace at which she experiences conversation. She speaks, and then informs us she’ll pause while that’s translated. A few beats of silence ring out awkwardly in the air.
Quoting Wittgenstein copiously, Nadarajah beautifully deconstructs the meaning of meaning, of how language acts from her point of view. She tells us Wittgenstein said we should speak of “not what is the meaning of the word, but what is it to explain the meaning of the word”; but how do you explain this when you have no word to start off with? This compelling partnership has our attention for an hour, and Nadarajah – with MacLaine’s help – succinctly breaks such thoughts down in reasoned, logical fashion, offering a window on her experience. Although she can’t escape silent emotional outbursts as she conveys her frustration with shouting and not being heard; and hints at the suggested act of violence in her youth which cost her hearing.
Summerhall (Venue 26) until 30 August
Published in The Scotsman on 24 August 2015
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