Bunker Theatre, London – until 1 February 2020
You can’t say they didn’t warn you. Captions like “no-one will understand everything” and “no two people can have the same experience” flash up on the wall before The Process starts – “that is how it is meant to be” we’re gently but insistently told. For this is a story told in both BSL and spoken English, with overlaps and gaps deliberately built in, probing at our need to understand everything, exemplifying that for some, that is an unimaginable luxury.
Sarah Bedi’s play posits a near-dystopia (ie sometime soon after 31 January…!) where notions of personal economic cost have become a major driver in a political system where the power of the state is becoming monolithic. Jo Kay, a Deaf entrepreneur, has developed the app which is being used to measure people’s contributions and costs to society but though she is ostensibly being celebrated as part of the establishment, she soon sees her tool weaponised against her.
Elements of The Process have a horribly chilling ring to them. The idea that society can so easily turn its back on those labelled ‘different’ is unquestionably true, but as the definition of ‘different’ is stretched, from the homeless to anyone who is perceived a drain on the state – ie the disabled – that thin end of the wedge slaps us in the face. So too some of the smaller details – D/deaf experiences in court, institutional inflexibility, even the short fuse of so many hearing people trying to communicate with the D/deaf… – all ring true.
Bedi’s ambition does cast its scope a little too wide at times, with some of its dramatic flexes coming to little fruition – there’s a lot packed in here for an hour and a half. But I loved the uncompromising way it dealt with its bilingualism, that sense of not quite catching everything so familiar to my daily life and the thought that most of the audience would be feeling the same for once gave me a little chuckle. Jean St Clair’s Jo leads the cast with a powerful performance that can’t quite believe the way things around her crumble away so quickly, and Catherine Bailey and William Grint both make for compelling stage presences in their various roles. The Process proves bold and striking, if a little flawed – we could all wish to be considered thus.