Despite all the big names and prestigious companies that the Edinburgh Fringe attracts it is the hidden gems, those exciting discoveries of new talent that often have the most impact: such is the case for Order from Chaos. Nottingham New Theatre deftly translate writer and director Jonny Khan’s innovative ideas into a powerful, visceral performance that sensitively represents the experience of hearing loss, exploring themes of isolation, escape and resilience. Khan’s multidisciplinary and multisensory approach overwhelms the audience with both visual and audible stimulation, creating a uniquely powerful production that will undoubtedly stay with you.
Order from Chaos follows the formative years of Jay, brilliantly portrayed by Lois Baglin. Jay is an energetic, charismatic girl whose uncompromising love of music initially distracts from the fact that she has partial hearing loss. She and her brother Riley (Morgan Beale) are the only characters, and an intimate cast of two ensures that the audience focuses unwaveringly, almost uncomfortably on the protagonist.
Khan’s production represents Jay’s relationship with music and hearing loss through multiple contrasting dualities: sound and silence, movement and stillness, monochrome and colour, connect and disconnect. These interact throughout the show to produce a raw and uncompromising depiction of Jay’s experience.. The amalgamation of fast movements, restless colourful lighting and booming music provide a claustrophobic contrast to the rare moments of silence and stillness that accompany Jay when she isn’t wearing her hearing aids. The palpable isolation and vulnerability of Baglin’s Jay in these moments bring to the fore the pathos of her story.
Jay’s hearing loss almost becomes a third character in its influence on the protagonist. It begins barely noticeable but then grows to engulf her confident persona, reducing her to an insecure, mumbling shadow of herself. Baglin’s highly nuanced portrayal of Jay coming to terms with her hearing loss is well-supported by Beale’s Riley, whose role as her brother provides yet another thought-provoking layer of perspective to this already multifaceted production.
The multidisciplinary approach taken by Khan makes for a complex, powerful production but more importantly ensures that Jay’s story speaks both for and to the deaf community. The use of subtitles, sign language and intensely physical storytelling facilitated by dance-inspired movement sequences enrich the show and give it a unique, highly accessible energy. Order’s accessibility is most profoundly highlighted when Jay communicates to the audience in sign that she has lost her hearing entirely. This creates a powerful role-reversal in which accommodations must be made for the hearing community using subtitles, making it apparent how difficult it must be for the deaf community to feel included in a world built for the hearing.
Order from Chaos is a dynamic, compelling exploration of how the experience of deafness and being a teenager can clash and be reconciled. Khan’s thoughtful writing and direction, authentically portrayed by Baglin and Beale, communicate a triumphant message of human resilience and adaptability that needs to be heard and seen, by all.
Order from Chaos is on at Olive Studio, Greenside @ Infirmary Street
At 17:30 on 12th, 14th, 16th, 19th, 21th, 23th August
Buy tickets here
Image: Iren Seawood