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Deaf as a Post review (Barons Court Theatre)

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Dandelion Productions’ ‘Deaf as a Post’ has found a home at Barons Court Theatre from 9th – 20th April, providing London audiences with the opportunity to catch Shaun Blaney’s play about a fictional world rife with a sound-transmitted virus. Featuring direction by Emma Copland who brought Slippery When Wet to life at the same venue last year, Shaun and Emma have recently joined forces to create their own theatre and film production company. I had the opportunity to review their debut play on Friday evening and whilst in my opinion the narrative needs development, from a creativity and representation point of view, it is admirable how the company is using theatre as a platform for sharing d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing perspectives.

Deaf as a Post leaflet at Barons Court Theatre, London

About the play

Post-apocalyptic in its themes, the play looks at what it means to be a user of hearing aids. Experimenting with sound and amplification, it takes place in a dystopian, alternative world where a virus is causing people to ‘loop’ and lose control of their minds, ultimately turning into zombie figures. The main character Goody (Shaun Blaney) is partially deaf and has managed to escape transmission so far. The play explores the catastrophic world events from his perspective, as he is recruited by local authorities and fights against the zombies.

Deaf as a Post leaflet in front of the Barons Court Theatre stage in London

Sound design and amplification

Copland encourages audiences to walk in the shoes of people with hearing aids, turning to harsh sound effects and transitions in an attempt to illustrate what it is like on a daily basis. It is intentionally jarring for viewers, mirroring the bold narrative and the lack of compassion from the authoritative figures in the military organisation.

Unfortunately the script is littered with profanity-infused yelling and shouting which get in the way of the creative choices. It quickly becomes a shouting match in places and when combined with the jolting sounds, it becomes too much for the senses. I always appreciate shows taking a risk, but the dialogue would be easier to digest with varying levels of discourse.

Deaf as a Post production photo
© Rosamund Gravelle

A disjointed narrative

The play leans very heavily into the action and zombie apocalypse themes, to the detriment of the narrative. On a scene by scene basis, the plot is easy to follow, but between scenes there is disconnect. For example, in a couple of places characters disappear running away from the zombies and then reappear absolutely fine in the next. It could be interpreted as Goody replacing his hearing aids and regaining awareness of what is going on, but it feels like too much time passes for this to be a realistic interpretation. Cohesion between scenes would make the story feel less disjointed. 

Dual roles

Three performers play multiple characters, but there is limited focus on character introduction or development outside of the leading role of Goody. Operative Chuckie (Nuala McGowan) ends up being a love interest for Goody, but it is difficult to understand where this connection came from as there are few interactions between them. I would like to see the play focus less on the fantasy theming and more on Goody’s personal journey and the people he meets.

Deaf as a Post production photo
© Rosamund Gravelle

Experimentation with language

I enjoyed the experimentation with dialogue, particularly the use of sign language between Goody and Chuckie. It goes a long way to explaining the sudden love story, even if it feels a little unrealistic. It also reflects how hard-of-hearing people may use sign language at times. Additionally, the military trainer speaks in cockney language and this is used to highlight how words can be slightly misinterpreted or misunderstood. Thinking outside of the zombie-filled setting, it is a thoughtful reminder of how little changes to body language and vocal tone can have a profound impact on the clarity of conversations.

Deaf as a Post poster at Barons Court Theatre, London
© Rosamund Gravelle

Final thoughts

It is a compelling play, with important messages about deafness that can be echoed beyond the limits of this fantasy and sci-fi piece of theatre. The narrative and characters need development, but in time Deaf as a Post could be a really engaging and thoughtful piece of theatre. Currently the intense emphasis on the action theming means that the actual story is negatively impacted, leading audiences through the character interactions and relationships at lightning pace. That being said, I admire the bravery in the storyline and think it is a truly unique addition to Barons Court’s programme. Performances run until Saturday 20th April, with tickets available via the theatre’s website.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Deaf as a Post was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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