It labours a point, but then this production does so deliberately: Summit imagines what happens if, as they repeatedly tell the audience, “the lights go out” during an international, um, summit. The audience is left to determine what precisely is meant by this, beyond the summit venue being plunged into darkness. That is to say: what were the wider consequences of a critical incident that finally made the world sit up and take notice? For the sake of argument, it is assumed the summit takes place ‘here’: it’s unlikely that a summit of world political leaders and policy thinkers would be hosted by the Shoreditch Town Hall, but this is theatre, and in the world where disbelief is suspended, anything is possible.
This extends to a summit achieving something significant and meaningful, eventually. Some time passes before anything positive is achieved – how much time would be giving too much away – but the future is bright, and it is almost a pity that it takes some sort of emergency to occur before the participants of the summit move beyond banging their fists and demanding that something must be done about say, climate change, working conditions or the impending food crisis.
In the end, though, it is not so much about the storyline, as the journey itself. In providing much repetition, the performers (Nadia Anim, Aleasha Chaunte and Jamie Rea) entertainingly mimic the manner in which summit participants tend to communicate, and they manage to do so without that irritating phrase so beloved of politicians in particular: ‘Let me be clear…’ The inclusion of other languages, including British Sign Language, added to the diverse feel of proceedings – an aspect of living in a proverbial global village.
The show also provides an opportunity for people who don’t happen to communicate in BSL to experience, in a way, what it is like for sign language users, or indeed speakers of other languages, when someone talks to them in English. A process of trying to decipher what they are saying must take place – though it is made easier by a prelude to each of the three acts in the play, which thoroughly sets the scene. The audience is put at ease and told not to worry if anything can’t be understood – different perspectives are given for the same set of events, so what transpires can be pieced together.
In this regard, it is a rather clever piece of writing. I can understand what goes on as much as someone from the D/deaf community would. And it’s accomplished by the art of storytelling. There is no set to speak of, not even a chair. The characters do not even dress in the sharp suits of summit leaders, wearing comfortable clothing instead. The clear explanations before each act are incredibly helpful, making the show easy to follow. The production suggests that somehow humanity will find a way out of the various crises taking place around the world, and its message of positivity, as well as urgency, is an intriguing and encouraging one. A brief but challenging show.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“We need to use our imagination. We need to imagine that change might be possible. That change is possible, however hard or impossible it might seem.”
In a blend of languages, including fully integrated BSL, three performers tell a story from three perspectives. It is the story of an international meeting. A meeting called to respond to a crisis. A meeting at which something happened, and in that moment everything changed.
Exploring equality and inviting action, SUMMIT is the new play by renowned theatre-maker Andy Smith, writer-performer of The Preston Bill, Commonwealth, and (alongside Tim Crouch), what happens to the hope at the end of the evening.
Tue 9 – Fri 19 Oct 2018