REVIEW - The Promise at Birmingham Rep is powerful theatre as it explores the 'prison' of deaf dementia - The Solihull Observer

REVIEW - The Promise at Birmingham Rep is powerful theatre as it explores the 'prison' of deaf dementia

Solihull Editorial 10th Apr, 2024   0

DEAFINATELY Theatre’s ‘The Promise’ is a powerful new play by Paula Garfield and Melissa Mostyn, which is premiering all this week at Birmingham REP’s smaller stage ‘The Door’.

The play opens with Rita, a headmistress at a deaf school lecturing us, the students, with her analysis of the Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’. She signs in silence telling us she has no need to vocalise as signing is her tongue. Her dialogue is displayed perfectly on the cyclorama whilst she speaks.

The hearing members of the audience (like me) understood from this clever monologue that whilst the production is all-inclusive, quite rightly, the language of choice for the majority of the audience is British Sign Language.

Anne Seymour as Rita gives a beautiful and compelling performance as she takes us on her journey from happiness in her job and family life down a creeping spiral of memory loss into a rabbit hole of no escape.

James Boyle plays Rita’s son Jake, who has come home from Amsterdam where he lives with his husband, for his estranged father’s funeral and is troubled to find his mother’s growing forgetfulness. As he reveals his own story through cleverly interwoven flashbacks, Boyle convinces across the roles complexities.

Louis Neethling plays Rita’s husband Mike, a regular guy who just wants an ordinary family life but cannot come to terms with his son being gay – Erin Hutching completes the cast as Rita’s caring friend and neighbour.

The Promise in the title of the show refers to a commitment made by Rita to attend her son’s same sex wedding in the Netherlands. It is something she doesn’t keep through no fault of her own. Sadly, Jake never gets to know the reasons behind her no-show which we, the audience, are privy to.

The technicals in the show are quite superb with Holly Ellis’ lighting design merging with Ben Glover’s video design to complement Paul Burgess’ impressive and most practical set.

Paula Garfield directs her own work with passion, coupled with a delicate touch, bringing a lump in the throat and a tear to the eye at many a moment.

Picture by Becky Bailey. s

Dementia is challenging for everyone it strangles – but for a deaf person who has no other language but signing it condemns them to a solitary prison in a care home where no-one speaks their language. There is only one deaf care home in the UK and that’s on the Isle of Wight with only availability for 15 residents. Rita, who has cared for other people all her life, finishes hers alone.

The Promise left me emotionally saddened but theatrically satisfied – it’s a tough watch at times – but an enlightening one.

The Promise runs at the Birmingham REP’s The Door theatre until Saturday, April 13. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose reviews

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