NOT I | London, Battersea Arts Centre

Samuel Beckett’s characters tend to be out loud, more than think out loud. They don’t speak to the more comforting and rational aspects of our nature, but are rather material manifestations of something primal within us. Perhaps latching onto this theme, this production of Beckett’s Not I is performed by someone with Tourette’s syndrome, and highlights the hypocrisy of discriminating against disabilities.

Mouth (Jess Thom) is a spot-lit mouth located stage right, eight feet off the ground. Movement is a tall figure, stage left, engaging with Mouth. Mouth does all the talking, emitting a constant stream of clipped words and phrases that evoke someone who, in being at a constant distance to others and herself, is unable to embrace her sense of self.

Jess Thom plays Mouth with energy, urgency and humour. Her tics lend themselves well to Beckett’s compulsive style. Beckett’s style in turn sheds light on how relatable compulsive behavior can be. The other character on stage, Movement, is played by a BSL signer. So-called shortcomings become an integral part of Beckett’s textual fabric, probing and confusing the audience’s sense of normality.

The play is followed by a brief documentary and a discussion, both of which elucidate this production’s focus on diversity and inclusivity. But while the evening may spark debates on what we assume to be acceptable, it also illuminates the humanity of Beckett’s oeuvre. It’s not just another redo of a theatre classic, this production is being the change it wants to see in the world.

Booking 28 February – 17 March 2018, £12.50.

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