A photograph is something which usually speaks for itself, though the intent beneath the image isn’t as easy to communicate. Why it was taken, where and in what context are all questions we can find ourselves asking. In Burrows is a tender look at the relationship between interpretation, language and translation in a bid to communicate and understand. Improvised through audio descriptive English and British Sign Language (BSL), Andy Edwards and Amy Cheskin showcase the anxiety, elation and vulnerability that can arise when trying to be understood.
Before the production begins, Edwards sits with his back to us giving a description of what the evening will entail as Cheskin provides BSL. From the outset, it’s clear that In Burrows wants to bridge a gap in communication: one which prevails in our education and culture. Instead of simply creating a production around this, they weave it through a loose narrative, creating more of an experience. Before the show, an audience member has taken photographs of whatever they want. An image is selected at random as Edwards then begins to describe this with an emphasis on audio descriptive terms. From this Cheskin interprets what she can from Andy’s words. The two overlap, move around the stage and change levels as they delve deeper into the image – promising something will happen.
Something special does indeed happen, for with Cheskin’s assistance we deconstruct a two-dimensional photo – stripping it layer by layer. We understand it through another’s perception. In Burrows is not only commendable for its accessibility but also for offering tangible concepts for those who do not require either aid. They are incorporated into the story and while, at first, we may not entirely catch on, we all soon identify recognisable features – furthering our own understanding of the image.
In an effort to make someone understand us we often paint a different image than what they have envisioned. As Cheskin elaborates what she sees in Edward’s words they match key features but focus on alternate details. What’s more impressive is that she understands more of Edwards thought-process than the image itself. Why he picked up on certain aspects, and what this lets her understand about him rather than the image itself. The whole process is fascinating.
In Burrows moves from being a piece surrounding specific forms of communications and becomes an encompassing, eye-catching collection of human interaction and understanding. It suits a smaller audience not because of scale but due to intimacy. Its engaging nature requires us to connect to the movements, sounds and facial expressions. Without this connection, those of us who aren’t trained in either communicative form will find it difficult to ease into the production. It risks a lot being lost on the audience, however pays off for those with enough patience and humour, as the two push for a deeper understanding of more than just language but each other.