Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Static

Dan Rebellato
Graeae Theatre Company and Suspect Culture
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, and touring
(2008)

Publicity image

Two tall, thin speakers dominate the stage. The speakers play music, but it is not just music - it is also everything else. Dan Rebellato's Static presents a contemporary, touching discussion of music as a life, as communication, as everything. A discussion made ever more interesting by the presence of a deaf character as the central focus of the play.

Does music have to be heard to be enjoyed? If Dan Rebellato's characters are anything to go by then no, there are too many other ways. The dominant theme in the play is that of music binding people together. A traditional love story is presented with all the hurt, pain and feelings of loss when a loved one dies. However in this case, rather than focusing on despair, the play zooms in on the power of music in every aspect of life and presents a puzzle that the characters and indeed the audience must complete.

The play concentrates on what seems to be an increasingly popular theme. Sarah is convinced that her husband is trying to communicate with her from beyond the grave. It conjures up images of television series Life on Mars and Hollywood block buster P.S I Love You.

However, far from pulling out the ouija board, Rebellato chooses to explore the importance of communication. This is examined in a variety of ways, the most obvious of which is the use of sign language.

Signing is used throughout the play and creates a visual focus on communication. However, signing switches between the characters so at some points all the characters will sign and at others they will take it in turns. This makes following the story while also keeping up with the sign language quite confusing.

Another way in which communication is discussed is through characters talking to Chris who is dead. When this happens, the characters appear on the stage on their own and ask questions and share their feelings in the style of a rhetorical monologue. This shows that even though a person departs this life, those left behind still feel the need to communicate with them. This is especially apparent as each character takes a turn at some point in the play to communicate with Chris in their own unique way; Martin simply uses words, Sarah uses the static at the end of a tape, while Chris's sister chooses to use sign language.

The choice of sign language is the most interesting of the three as she signs at the front of the stage in silence leaving those members of the audience who do not understand sign language a little left out. This seems to be a jibe at society in which deaf people are often left out of spoken conversations and an effort and turning the tables. Despite this, the general gist can be picked up which hints that human communication such as sign language is open to everyone and can be used to communicate to everyone.

The theme of music is also used to portray ideas on communication. The play forces the reader to listen beyond the music to concentrate on the lyrics, some of which are flashed up on a screen, and the titles of songs. In this way, the play proves that music is more than just melodies and that as a result it can be enjoyed in more ways than just listening.

The play ends on rather a strange note with the words to Marilyn Manson's song Lamb of God. It is unclear if this is simply to resonate with the theme of the album which explores the relationship between death and fame or whether it is to portray overtly religious connotations. The only possible link with the play could be that the sister (the only religious character) finally finds her peace and her way of coping with death in the solace of God.

The cast gave a compelling performance which mixed humour and grief in a very realistic fashion. However, in a play which demands so much connection making between music and songs the run time was just a little to long.

At the Tron until 23rd February, then touring to Traverse Edinburgh (February 26 to March 1), macrobert Stirling (March 5), Eden Court Inverness (March 7 & 8), Northern Stage Newcastle (March 11 & 12), Contact Theatre Manchester (March 14 & 15), The Drum Plymouth (March 26 -29), Royal Opera House Belfast (April 9 -12 ), Birmingham Rep (April 16 -19) and Soho Theatre London (April 22 - May 3)

Philip Fisher reviewed this production at the Soho Theatre

Reviewer: Alison Burns