The Language of Kindness at Shoreditch Town Hall
The latest in a long line of homages to the NHS heroes is unfortunately not really enough to be meaningful in that crowded space. It’s hard to know exactly what The Language of Kindness is meant to be – this isn’t simply a straight adaptation of the acclaimed book by Christie Watson. The former nurse’s memoirs have been twisted into some sort of performance art, with interpretive dance and an overindulgent sound designer.
It’s approximately 75 minutes of uncomfortable noise and abstract movements, with the occasional monologue about nursing thrown in. These monologues are actually pretty darn good, which is hardly surprising as they come from such outstanding source material. But everything else happening on stage distracts, draining the power from the words.
The performances are pretty flawless. A small cast made up of Tina Chiang, Janet Etuk, Rina Fatania, Etta Fusi, Keziah Joseph and Clive Mendus act out different nursing stories, many of which are unbelievably tragic. But one can’t help but feel these stories would pack a much heavier emotional thwomp if they were allowed to be the focus, rather than these weird movements and headache-inducing sounds.
By the end, the only thing that’s clear is that this is a show of support for the NHS nurses after all they’ve done over the last 15 months or so – which is certainly an important thing, but it’s hardly taking a bold stance. Does theatre need to open up again after so long only to say the same thing the public has been saying and constantly hearing for the last however long?
Having said that, The Language of Kindness does show what a difficult, heartbreaking and mentally challenging job nursing can be during non-COVID times. But it doesn’t really convert that into too thought-provoking or lasting. This is a production that certainly has good intentions and involves some talented people and wonderful source material, but, as it all comes together, it falls a little flat.
Photo: Ali Wright
The Language of Kindness is at Shoreditch Town Hall from 3rd June until 12th June 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.