It's a few days now since I went to this, but I did promise that I'd let you know what it was about and what it was like, so here it is ... It's basically the story of a young woman whose husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly, and her subsequent finding of a compilation tape that he (Chris) made but never gave her. She thinks there's some hidden meaning in the tape, and becomes obsessed by this (and also for a while obsessed with the idea that he's trying to send messages 'from the other side' through the ether, recording the static in empty rooms). Chris' friend, Martin, is enlisted on this search for the secret message in the compilation tape, and eventually they work out that the message isn't in the music itself or the words of the songs, but in the song titles. Chris was deaf (and is played by a deaf actor), in the story having lost his hearing after a previous car accident in which Martin was driving several years previously (which is where a tense relationship between his wife and his sister, and between his sister and Martin come into the play), and they work out this vital piece of the jigsaw about the song titles being the important thing after realising that one of the songs on the tape was written after Chris lost his hearing and so would never have heard the music (he was profoundly deaf).
Although 'Static' may sound like loads of love stories, especially ones in which someone is left behind after a death, it was actually quite different from most things I've seen either on stage or TV/film. I think this was largely down to the extensive use of BSL (British Sign Language) in the play, which was also used in a very interesting way. Sometimes it was used as a direct translation of the spoken dialogue, or the lyrics of the music that was playing; sometimes it was the other way round and the dialogue was a direct translation of the sign; sometimes the dialogue and the sign complimented each other, almost like conversations within conversations; sometimes the sign was an interpretation of the dialogue or the meaning within the dialogue/music; sometimes it was a separate conversation; and sometimes the context in which the words were being spoken and signed simulateously were different, even if the words/signs themselves were direct translations. It was all very interesting.
It's been ever so interesting to think about it afterwards as well and to wonder about the accessability of the play as a whole to a wide audience. As I can sign I didn't miss out on what was being said in BSL and the complexities of how it was being used, or the different messages that were being given (and also how bits of the plot were revealed in sign before they were revealed in spoken dialogue). I wondered if those who couldn't sign, which would've been the majority of the audience, would feel as though they'd missed out. The friend I went with doesn't sign, and she said that although she didn't know what was being said, she found it fascinating to watch, and that the use of BSL, and it's integral part in the play, added something to it. She obviously missed out on the nuances, but she said that she was still very much able to enjoy the play and to follow what was happening easily, especially as sign is so expressive that you cannot but understand the general mood of the conversation.
Then I began to wonder about the accessibility of the play to deaf members of the audience. The music is so vital to the play, and so entwined within it, that I wondered if certain aspects would be missed by a deaf audience. I think they probably would, though I can't say that with authority as I didn't go with anyone who was deaf. On the other hand, however, both the actor who played Chris and one of the directors were deaf, and sign was used in such an integrated way, even in through some of the music, that it's obviously something that would've been thought about extensively. Fascinating stuff, and it's had me thinking all week.
Static is touring at the moment and it's a play I'd recommend seeing. According to the flyer, the places they have left on the tour are Drum Theare, Plymouth; Baby Grand, Belfast; Birmingham Repertory Theatre; and Soho Theatre, London (They've also been at Contact, Manchester this weekend, but I'm a bit late with that one). It's a co-production by two theatre companies - Suspect Culture and Graeae, neither or whom I can honestly say I'd heard of before, but both of whom I'd be interested in seeing more of.
Yes, definitely worth seeing if it's coming to a theatre near you, and if you can't see, then they provide audio description on asking too! There's even braille on their flyer, albeit only saying that it's a new play and a co-production between the two theatre companies. Still, that's more than any other theatre flyer I've seen before.