Robert Softely reviewed Static at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, performed by Graeae and Suspect Culture, March 2008
"This isn’t a show just about music, this is a show that’s also about everything else." This line, adapted from the show itself, pretty much sums up Static. In covering the ideas of death, loss, religion, exclusion and music, it is a truly theatrical melting pot. As someone who knows the work of both Graeae and Suspect Culture pretty well, I was very keen to see what would happen when they came together. The result? Hmm ... interesting.
Static centres on the story of Sarah, a woman who has recently lost her husband, examining the lengths we go to in coping with grief. Her husband, Chris, was deafened during an accident not long after they met and it’s his love of music that provides the core catalyst of the play. After Chris dies, Sarah enlists the help of their friend Martin to decipher the message Chris has left for her in a compilation tape. The production explores all of these themes of loss, be it of a loved one, music or oneself, with poetry and deftness, beautifully crafted by elegant direction and skilful performances by all four cast members.
I wholly admit this is a sorry admission, but it was so refreshing to see a show where there was no division between disabled and non-disabled actors in terms of quality of performance – this felt like a truly inclusive piece of theatre. Pauline Lockhart gives an emotionally charged performance as Sarah, managing to avoid the easy temptation of reducing the character to a hysterical weeping widow. In playing the omnipresent (but never seen by the other characters) Chris, Steven Webb signs with such energy and passion that he demands attention.
The production is not without its faults. The use of sensory bombardment for the first 20 minutes of the show is clearly intended to alienate the audience, while the on-stage action is highly emotional and engaging. These contradictory factors leave you confused, which may well be their intention, but nonetheless this is unsatisfying. Furthermore, the use of differing scripts for the spoken play as opposed to the play told through BSL is a radical convention, but I couldn’t help wondering if the hearing audience had an ultimately more satisfying experience than a Deaf person might have had.
The play's emotional impact is sometimes hampered by Dan Rebellato’s script, with its staccato scenes and use of musicophile language which often excludes the audience. This metaphorical exclusion is clearly intended to reflect the experience of the Deaf audience member attending a non-interpreted piece of theatre. While it's a valid experience, does the exclusion of one audience sector to highlight this issue really achieve anything?
Ultimately though, this play resonates with the level of emotional integrity which the subject of loss and death demands. Without crossing over to sentimentality, it conveys a truth about the devastating loss of one’s partner that will have every audience member turning to the person they’re with and demand that they ‘just don’t dare die’. PS: if the person next to you isn’t your partner, this may be a little inappropriate...