Wittgenstein said, ‘what can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Sue Maclaine’s new work is based on this prominent message, which concerns language and our cognitive capacity. This is a political and personal performance by MacLaine and Nadia Nadarajah in two languages: one signed and one spoken.
The two languages work together in harmony, as do the two women, dressed in grey and white dresses that spill to the floor. They worked alongside Jonathan Burrows to create a simple but powerful choreography. Surrounded by books, bells and an unravelling script, the scene is perfectly described as a Vermeer painting: an elegant atmosphere created for a beautiful but distressing message.
There are so many words and so many ways to say them, yet somehow we choose to stay silent, but our silence does not mean consent. Nadarajah’s BSL does not always convey the same emotion as MacLaine’s spoken words because of the blur between narrator and interpreter; often what is said, isn’t what is heard.
The message will be received differently by each member of the audience, depending on their individual life experience. We are taken on the author’s journey, and on our own internal one; her traumatic experience and our interpretation of it. This is a bleak and challenging story that engages with the audience, raising many questions.