Can I Start Again Please, Battersea Arts Centre - Review

Context is everything. Language is everything.

Performed by Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah, Can I Start Again Please examines the role of semantics to convey meaning to experiences, especially those that are hard to articulate.

Using the ideas of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein as a jumping off point for scrutinising what is and isn't said in everyday language, MacClaine and Nadarajah use spoken word and sign language respectively to illustrate how some things aren't so much lost in translation as can't be communicated.

Adorned in long off-white dresses that complemented each other, MacClaine and Nadarajah read from long, scroll-like parchments like Delphine Oracles, imparting some secret message from the Powers-That-Be. However it soon becomes apparent, that EVERYTHING they say or don't say has meaning. The dialogue that's verbally spoken and signed in tandem seldom runs for the same length of time, showing the limits of language to express certain ideas.

Using repetition and measured meter, certain phrases take on the power of mantras, which in conjunction with a bell that's rung intermittently have a quasi-Buddhist meditative quality.

But what does it all mean? The deconstruction of language here, the periods of dialogue versus the silence?

Ultimately, it's no leap of imagination to see that Can I Start Again Please is about trauma (childhood abuse or some other experience): the ability (or not) to talk about something that has no language – at least not until perhaps later in life.

Can I Start Again Please is a mature work that's brimming with ideas, but has the quiet confidence to let the performance speak for itself.

© Michael Davis 2016

Can I Start Again Please runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until 18th June 2016.

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