Sunday, July 14

The Promise – Lyric Hammersmith Studio

This is Deafinitely’s first co-production between Birmingham Rep and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre. It is a new play exploring a variety of themes including inaccessible healthcare for the deaf community and how families navigate a diagnosis of dementia. This show is presented with a combination of British sign language, spoken English and captions.

The promise is the story of a family that has grown apart. We start with Rita (Anna Seymour) a teacher and champion of education in the deaf community who is retired and struggling with her memory. Her husband (Louis Neethling) recently passed away and her son Jake (James Boyle) has returned home for the funeral after years of estrangement. The reasons for his absence are unravelled throughout the dual timeline plotline of the play.

This play was co-created by Paula Garfield and Melissa Mostyn, they blended flashbacks and the present-day timeline seamlessly. With the differences being highlighted by change in lighting designed by Holly Ellis, with warmer tones being used for the past and starker bluer light used for the present. This was especially well done with the contrasting scenes of Jake realising how little he knows about his mother in the present and Rita in the past having the same conversation with her husband about missing Jake because of her dementia.

Photo: Becky Bailey

A variety of themes were introduced in this play but due to the time constraints, a 90-minute one act show, it did not feel like some of the themes were fully or deeply explored. Namely the homophobia from the husband character which is never resolved and feels forgotten about in the latter part of the story. Even though it is the catalyst for the family’s estrangement with their son.

However, I did think it highlighted an important theme which was how inaccessible social care is for the deaf community in the UK. There is only one care home specialising in caring for the deaf community, it’s in the Isle of Wight and there are no rooms available for Rita. This led to a heartbreaking series of events with an ending that packs a punch.

The visual effects using projections (by Ben Glover and Douglas Baker) combined with the music (by Marie Zschommler), were extremely important in conveying story beats and invoking emotion.

This piece of theatre feels timely and important. It is powerful and highlights important issues for the deaf community which are important for all to hear.

The Promise is playing at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre until the 11th May. Tickets are available here:

Reviewer: Zara Odetunde

Reviewed: 1st May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.