Sarah Bedi’s deaf thriller about authoritarian systems is an imaginative tackling of disability politics, but by no means straightforward – ★★★
“No one will understand everything – that’s how it is,” signs British Sign Language (BSL) consultant Brian Duffy in an introduction to The Process. A play which combines spoken English and BSL, it most likely relates to the different experience hearing and deaf audiences will have when watching the production, rather than the plot itself. Yet, ‘the process’ itself is not quite apparent, and creative ambiguity can only lend itself so much to interpretation.
The initial premise is clear. Deaf entrepreneur Jo Kay (Jean St Clair) develops an app, known as Crop, which measures cost to the state against personal worth and contributions, but soon things turn on her. While akin to modern-day China and Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’ in terms of the digital idea, its framing of social worth through the lens of deafness and disability offers up some interesting ideas to explore – most notably the flawed perception that disabled people are a burden on the state. Although, when it becomes almost like ‘a beginner’s guide’ to deaf awareness – including a few stalling scenes involving interpreters – one wonders if the more nuanced points (such as around the issues faced by deaf people in court) are lost on a hearing audience.
While some plot points are convoluted, St Clair is exceptional as Jo, portraying her as a woman as methodical and resourceful as her own creation in a way which makes all the random and unexplained misfortune which happens to her all the more devastating. She leads a cast who deliver strong performances despite the occasional bizarre pieces of dialogue. One scene sees Jo’s son Andrew (William Grint) talk to his girlfriend Kelly (Erin Siobhan Hutching), in which the latter proclaims “I don’t need a hero ’cause I’m a feminist”. In another, two presenters (Catherine Bailey and George Eggay) interview Jo with exaggerated enthusiasm while announcing a January heatwave – a likely nod to climate change which doesn’t quite come to fruition. Ralph Boggard completes the company with a string of roles, his strongest being as Jo’s under pressure colleague, Daz.
In trying to explore a plethora of ideas in a short running time, The Process doesn’t quite go from A to Z, but it does create some impressive twists and turns along the way.
The Process is now playing at The Bunker Theatre until 1 February.
Production Images: Paul Biver.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch The Process 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.