Can I Start Again Please

Pay attention as this breathtaking production desiccates, then dissects childhood trauma via its exploration of Wittgenstein and semantics: there’s a wordless sucker punch in Can I Start Again Please that strikes over the course of several minutes, and its impact aches for hours.

How can we really understand others’ traumatic experiences? How can we properly express them to one another? On the visceral strength of Can I Start Again Please, it’s like this.

Constant interpretation, evaluation, and reinterpretation are actively encouraged in this room where two women sit, wreathed in flowing dresses, laps covered by an unending scroll of words. It’s unfurled over the course of the performance as delicately as Sue MacLaine’s script, which is both signed by an expressive Nadia Nadarajah in British Sign Language and spoken aloud by MacLaine. There’s nothing gimmicky about this staging though: the two distinct modes of expression are vital to an account that claws for meaning in repressed childhood trauma, the draw of staying silent, and others’ reaction to its revelation.

The performance isn’t just beautiful to look at: it’s utterly engaging. There are endless strands of inquiry, which MacLaine ruthlessly draws together as our suspicions are confirmed, like repressed memories coming to surface. Constant interruptions of her account come in the form of philosophical ruminations, the ringing of discordant bells, or the two women’s sudden standing up and telling their audience, “I love you,” or “I’m glad you are here.”

But the barrage of information avoids being overwhelming because of the production’s bright, coursing constant – the relaxed reciprocity of the two performers. With two distinct voices but a singular message, they frequently throw prickly words and maxims into the air and leave them to hang there for several silent moments as we contemplate possible interpretations, from harmless to harrowing.

And that, fundamentally, is what the show asks us to do: to examine trauma through various lenses and build up a nuanced picture. Because how can we really understand others’ traumatic experiences? How can we properly express them to one another? On the visceral strength of Can I Start Again Please, it’s like this.

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Can I Start Again Please is a bold new work by Sue MacLaine. Two languages, one signed and one spoken, duel and duet as their capacity to express traumatic experience is interrogated and tested. ‘...burning with anger, yet beautifully choreographed and powerfully controlled’ ***** (Bella Todd, Stage). Performed by Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah. Outside eye – Jonathan Burrows. SICK! Festival commission.

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