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Review: The Process (Bunker Theatre)

Sarah Bedi writes and directs this new play at the Bunker Theatre in south London

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Jean St Clair in The Process
© Paul Biver

In a system set up to favour conformity, anyone considered different is doomed to fail. With the case of The Process, being Deaf is too much for such a delicate democracy to handle – the only language the system understands is money. Sarah Bedi's show brings the ugliness of this dark philosophy silently screaming into the light.

The Process centres around Jo, a Deaf businesswoman who has revolutionised the tech industry only to find it used against her and her family with sinister repercussions. Suddenly her deafness, something that is so fundamentally a part of her identity, is seen as a threat. Removing the ability for Jo to communicate with those around, from colleagues to family, only serves to widen the gap with the rest of society.

Much of Bedi's production is effectively used to emphasise this ever-expanding chasm – a combination of BSL and spoken English ensures that most individual audience members will not understand every conversation held. Those of us traditionally able to comfortably communicate with our peers suddenly appreciate the struggle that the D/deaf community faces daily. Flipping the tables and demanding that such interpretation now flows two ways instantly intensifies the narrative of The Process. But because the show starts off at this emotionally heightened level, it has little room in which to expand and grow.

Jean St Clair best captures the distressing atmosphere through her performance as lead character Jo. Scenes with her son – an earnestly honest turn by William Grint – where he is treated as sub-human throughout the trial and incarceration emphasise the bureaucracy's hunger to subdue and suffocate anyone classed as different. Mayou Trikerioti's stark grey design wholeheartedly leans into this and offsets it against the currently polarised political landscape – a wall of battery cells accompanies Oliver Vibrans' expansive, howling musical composition. Such a layered soundscape only further highlights the divide that sits at the centre of this play.

And yet, despite all the hard work done to set the scene, despite the best efforts of the ensemble, there are fundamental issues with the narrative of The Process. The storyline itself is too long, dragging the show out with no definitive conclusion. The production often feels unsure of its destination, a clear overall message muddied by a script that peters out rather than ending with a bang. Bedi's direction is choppy and often mistimed – lengthier scenes meander along only to suddenly erupt with such emotional force that it wrenches the audience away from connecting to the characters themselves.

The Process is not intended to be an easy watch – it aptly highlights the lethargy and intolerance our society can (and does) possess towards the D/deaf community. The show has a powerful vision at its core, but is dampened by a confusing series of events. A stronger narrative will provide the foundation for Bedi's production to be heard far and wide.