REVIEW - Language barrier provides a lesson in English at the RSC - The Stratford Observer

REVIEW - Language barrier provides a lesson in English at the RSC

Stratford Editorial 17th May, 2024   0

THE IMPORTANCE of language in defining who we are, and to an equal degree who we would like to be, provides the theme for an intriguing European premiere at The Other Place.

Four mature students and their teacher in Iran progress through a course aimed at improving their English enough to pass a key exam.

Along the way issues surrounding language and identity, cultural acceptance and exclusion, and the ever-elusive sense of belonging provide plenty to ponder.

There are five excellent performances as the cast contrast their relative expressiveness in Farsi with the inevitable stumbles in trying to get their meaning across in English.

Sanaz Toossi’s crisp new script manages to blend the worthy lessons it seeks to convey with ample enough wit and comedy to make the whole thing sound less like a thesis than might be feared. And under Diyan Zora’s direction the one-chunk 90-minute show never sags.

But for all the eloquent points and excellent performances though, this production is let down by a very uninspired staging.

Anisha Fields’ set is a wonderfully realised classroom and corridor familiar to anyone who’s ever set foot in a further education class. But on that set the actors, and the action, rarely rise above the sedentary and scene after scene is played flatly across the stage robbing the audience of any chance of seeing any meaningful interaction there is.

The play is also fragmented by a structure of short scenes identically cut together with blackouts and snap-ons that seem designed to prevent any gradual, subtle development.

This unsophisticated and rather leaden approach is, it must be said, not enough to scupper the play completely. It still has enough meaning and moments to engage, but how much better it could have been with a little more variety in pace and presentation.

Visit for full details of performances and booking.

Review by Matthew Salisbury


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