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Summit review at Shoreditch Town Hall, London – ‘an exploration of the limits of language’

Aleasha Chaunte, Jamie Rea and Nadia Anim in Summit Photo: The Other Richard
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Exploring the limitations of language and the vacuity of political discourse, Summit imagines an unlikely, optimistic butterfly effect which begins when international crisis talks are disrupted by a blackout.

Writer Andy Smith – who co-directs alongside Claire Lamont – includes all his usual hallmarks here, giving the show a bare-bones staging and a communal atmosphere, deconstructing his subject with deliberate artlessness.

Through punishingly circular loops of multilingual dialogue – including fluently integrated British Sign Language – the play’s three acts give us glimpses of the present, the recent past, and a bafflingly polyglot future. Though the characters tell us, repeatedly, that it’s a time of hope and progress, the hollowness of their commentary suggests it might be anything but.

Jamie Rea stands out with an especially intense performance, conveying a great depth of emotion while signing throughout. At one point, he delivers an impassioned, silent speech, its sincerity and expressive nuance completely clear. Beside him, Aleasha Chaunte delivers lines with the cheerful gentleness of a children’s TV presenter, while Nadia Anim rounds out the trio with warmth and humour.

The three performers hover around a lopsided music stand which supports a red notebook, reading their lines in long, thoughtful monologues or precise, overlapping bursts. Periodically, someone turns a page with ritualistic care, each exaggerated pause imbued with comic portentousness.

The cumulative effect is, quite intentionally, bewildering. Challenging but ultimately dissatisfying, the show becomes a disheartening depiction of the difficulty of even articulating, let alone resolving, the kinds of complex problems facing us today.

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Inaccessibly and bewildering show that struggles to convey its message despite warm performances