‘Going Through’ review – Deaf theatre at its most poetic

Nadia Nadarajah and Charmaine Wombwell breathe life into Estelle Savasta’s prose with expressive visual storytelling – ★★★★

Going Through is a powerful tale of migration told with a child’s imaginative and creative simplicity. Outgoing Associate Director Omar Elerian (Misty) delivers another lyrical piece of theatre in a production which merges the spoken word with British Sign Language, artistic captions and Visual Vernacular – an expressive, physical art form similar to miming – to create a truly immersive tale of an extraordinary venture.

Translated into English by Kirsten Hazel Smith, Estelle Savasta’s story follows young, “little bird” Nouri (Charmaine Wombwell) after being sent on a journey across borders by her charming carer, Younma (played by Deaf actress Nadia Nadarajah). “I will leave first, when the nest is ready, promise that you’ll let her come to me”, Nouri says of her mother placing her in Younma’s care, in one of the many lines which tap into the wider metaphor of a bird leaving its nest. For a incredibly visual production, the imagery is bountiful.

Monologues by Wombwell mesh perfectly with some excellent choreography from Nadarajah. In their “tiny little house” the two characters recite the many utensils and items dotted around the space with mesmerising chemistry, the pair in-sync as they mirror each other’s sign language.

While the collaboration of British Sign Language and spoken English flourishes, subtitles projected onto Rajha Shakiry’s blackish set and Wombwell’s dialogue occasionally stumble.

A few words are misspoken here and there, the repetition of a line being a short snag in the natural rhythm of the piece. When the speech does flow, the captions often fail to keep up – or match up – with Wombwell’s lines, which are often shortened or reworded versions of the projections. Saying apologise instead of say sorry for instance can easily be dismissed by some as a minor, understandable slip-up (and it is), but for a show which promises to be equally accessible for deaf and hearing audiences, the disjointed communication causes unnecessary moments of confusion in what is otherwise a free-flowing production.

Over 75 minutes, Going Through flourishes as a story, following the tense journey of a girl becoming a woman in the most challenging of circumstances.

Going Through is now playing at the Bush Theatre until 27 April.

Production Images: Ali Wright.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Going Through for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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