BWW Review: EXTRAORDINARY WALL (OF SILENCE), Bristol Old Vic
1880 was something of a watershed moment in the history of the Deaf community. It was during a conference in Milan that it was decreed the oral method of instruction for the deaf was the way forward, thereby setting in stone a method that would last for nearly 100 years and define what it was to be deaf to the detriment of those who were deaf.
It is the lack of care, the dismissal of culture and the avoidance of attention that is at the heart of Ad Infinitum's latest work, Extraordinary Wall
Of Silence. There are three languages at play: BSL, English, and the trademark Ad Infinitum physical language. All three are integrated into one smooth narrative that shifts between a historical context and three stories, those of Helen, Alan and Graham, three people who are told they need fixing like an object that has suddenly found itself to be broken.
The cast of four - David Ellington, Matthew Gurney, Moira Anna Mcauslan and Deborah Pugh - handle the compelling script with a deft, dynamic and engaging energy and a very light touch. In the hands of lesser makers, this could prove to be didactic at best, pedestrian at worse. Instead, it's nimble of pace, and entirely provocative by nature.
In dealing with the prejudice, abuse and ignorance the Deaf community has been confronted with, Extraordinary Wall
Of Silence presents more questions than answers - and those questions come thick and fast. They demand that their audience sit up and take notice of the language, the people and the community. They demand that we listen. They demand that we respond and face our own bias, both conscious and unconscious.
Of Silence is beautifully orchestrated, both in terms of its performance and its musicality. Sound designer Sam Halmarack has composed and designed a soundtrack that acts as a heartbeat for the work, as well as a haunting inner rhythm that drives the piece to its end.
Ad Infinitum have triumphed with Extraordinary Wall
Of Silence. It's poetic enough to be beautiful and confronting enough to be powerful. This is a piece that deserves to run and run.
Of Silence at Bristol Old Vic until 19 October