Review: SECOND PERSON NARRATIVE, Chandler Studio Theatre

What better way to explore identity than by presenting it in two languages simultaneously?

By: Dec. 10, 2023
Review: SECOND PERSON NARRATIVE, Chandler Studio Theatre
Review: SECOND PERSON NARRATIVE, Chandler Studio Theatre The Royal Conservatoire’s ‘Performance in British Sign Language (BSL) and English' students present a profound piece showcasing the overwhelming importance of equity for all in the theatre space.
 
At its core Second Person Narrative is about identity - the piece depicts 25 scenes following a central character’s life from birth to death, posing thought-provoking questions: can we forge our own self, or is it sculpted by those around us? Who defines who we are? Can we choose our own destiny? What does it mean to be ‘labelled?'

What better way to explore identity than by presenting it in two languages simultaneously? The piece is performed in BSL, but live English captions make it easy for a hearing audience to follow. This was my first BSL play and I was captivated by the strong impact of the language onstage – since the audience are so reliant on sight (instead of hearing), every eye shift, facial expression and subtle movement change felt much more meticulously and intently planned than other theatre.

However, the piece isn’t purely philosophical – it is filled with relatable comedy sparking constant laughter from the audience. The central character (aptly named YOU) is played by five different actors, shifting constantly throughout the piece. The ‘play within a play’ format with backstage actors in clear view and a stage manager announcing the start of every scene is a clever directorial decision by Mark Stevenson constantly reminding the audience that YOU represents everyone, sparking consistent self-reflection and relatability.

All actors hold their own and showcase impactful performances. Kym Clearie is a comic, strong-minded mother, Benadetta Zanetti fully encapsulates YOU navigating her middle-aged life and Ross McGeough brings a beautifully energetic and charismatic edge to every character he plays.

However, it is Yuki Neoh who steals the show. Portraying an older character ultimately facing death is a challenge for any young actor, let alone in a language some audience members do not understand. Neoh takes on the challenge gracefully, presenting a moving and fully convincing portrayal of YOU as an old woman, culminating in a moving, tearful ending. 

Occasionally the writing feels a bit repetitive and long-winded, however the performers make this forgivable.

A highly recommended play at RCS this month.

Second Person Narrative was at Chandler Studio Theatre

Photo Credit: Tim Morozzo

 



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