No two people experience the world in precisely the same way, an ominously crackling projection declares in the opening moments of Sarah Bedi’s smart speculative drama The Process.
Set in a callous capitalist dystopia almost indistinguishable from our present system, the show imagines a world where a person’s monetary worth is monitored via app, and where poverty is crime against the state.
Despite some patches of clunky underwriting, Bedi’s play is full of empathy, anger, and pleasingly dark humour. Focusing largely on the experiences of D/deaf characters, the text compellingly blends spoken dialogue with British Sign Language, interrogating the often-arbitrary definitions of normalcy that can mean the difference between privilege and discrimination.
Doubling as director, Bedi pushes these tensions even further with a slick and claustrophobic staging. Here, sight lines are intentionally blocked, performers’ eyes or mouths are obscured mid-conversation, and speeches are drowned out by overlapping noise.
Heading the cast, Deaf actor Jean St Clair movingly conveys the downward spiral of tech millionaire Jo, betrayed and brutalised by the insidious system she helped to create. Beside her, George Eggay provides some levity as a larger-than-life lawyer, while Catherine Bailey channels frosty, false civility as his status-obsessed wife.
The strikingly bleak set by Mayou Trikerioti fits neatly into the classic dystopian mould, all coarse, brutalist concrete and numbered cells. There’s a colourful corporate logo emblazoned over the door, too – a reminder of the dangerous path a society embarks on when it prioritises profit over compassion.