Can I Start Again Please (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

Can I Start Again Please

Credit: Matthew Andrews

A beautiful examination of the power of language and the language of power

Friendly smiles on the faces of Sue MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah greet the audience as they file into the theatre for MacLaine's latest production. It's an inviting start that creates a sense of security for an exquisitely crafted show about a difficult subject.

Language forms the backbone of Can I Start Again Please, a show that questions what we often take for granted about the way we use words. Inspired by the linguistic philosophy of Wittgenstein, the play explores various aspects of how we make meaning through words and how we read it in others. Can I Start Again Please takes the form of a dialogue between two language systems: English and British Sign Language; the verbal and the physical. As the performance unfolds, the two languages meld together into a visual lingua franca that captivates at every turn.

Yet despite its academic first appearance, the play plumbs darker depths, using the intelligibility of language as a metaphor for child sexual abuse. Shifting from language lessons in a benign, teacherly tone to a quiet menace, MacLaine is chilling as an abusive parent. Challenging both Wittgenstein's linguistic precepts and the treatment of abuse victims, it's a remarkably well-handled conceit.

A thoughtful, intelligent, and occasionally harrowing show, Can I Start Again Please poses some fascinating philosophical questions and perfectly captures the feeling of powerlessness experienced by child abuse victims.

Summerhall, 560 1581, until 30 Aug (not 17), 2.50pm, £10 (£8).

Can I Start Again Please

  • 4 stars
  • Written by: Sue MacLaine

Sue MacLaine's contemporary performance piece about childhood trauma. Parallel narratives are told in the parallel languages of spoken English and British Sign Language.