Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Children of a Lesser God

Mark Medoff
Salisbury Playhouse
(2004)

This is when we are reminded that theatre is a slice of life. That is to say, at a performance of Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God, a rare platform at Salisbury Playhouse for some of the challenges, in the daily struggle for understanding, which face those who are deaf and those who are not,

The first misunderstanding to clear out of the way is the idea that this is a play exclusively about deaf people or even, ultimately, deafness. There are lessons in this love story for all sorts of relationships.

That said, my own way of handling the sensitive issue of theatre which treads a thin line between art and social service, is to take it at its theatrical face value. Never mind what it's about, is it any good?

By this yardstick, Laurie Sansom's production is a curate's egg - much more than good in parts without altogether being entirely clear, from this vantage point at least, about just what it is saying. And I would not accept any suggestion that, however subconsciously, it is "saying" nothing!

The fusion of actors with and without hearing disadvantage in the company must be a sine qua non of the work - isn't this, or the failure of it in every-day life, what it's all about? The great success of Children of a Lesser God for me is that all the players are handicapped, either because they cannot hear or because they can!

Diana Martin, making her stage debut after three years in performance-related work for the deaf, is an attractive, vibrant, Sarah who falls for her tutor, James. The latter is a remarkable performance by Dan Fredenburgh who has not only been required to learn British Sign Language but must also deliver other character's lines as well as his own.

Another debutant, Daniel Webster, appears as Orin and I suspect it is no criticism of his enthusiastic performance that this character is not truly involved in the action. Perhaps Jessica Curtis' design and, certainly, Oliver Fenwick's lighting could help us - and the players - more, particularly with the imaginative process required for the early scenes.

"Children of a Lesser God" runs until Saturday 10th April with a Talkout on 6th April when speakers will include representative members of the Deaf community.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole