I didn’t know what to expect from Rumble Theatre’s Sign of the Times. The blurb puts it very simply as "A story about the power of language and the struggle to be heard". So I was very pleased to find that it was a powerful, poignant and heart-warming story; it follows Danny (James Robertson), who is an aspiring sports journalist and happens to be deaf.
Anyone who has ever been in the minority, whether that’s through gender, race, or a disability, will instantly connect with this show. Danny gets an interview at a prestigious newspaper, because the interviewer has read his blog and thinks he is gifted. However, Danny has chosen not to disclose his disability. He turns up at Julie's office along with his friend Laura, who acts as an interpreter at times when needed.
Elizabeth Ryan is convincing as the overwhelmingly busy, well-meaning, but completely ignorant Julie, who finds it very hard to wrap her head around how someone who is deaf can interview sport stars – even if they can lip read. But Danny’s persistence pays off in the end, and she gives him a week to prove he can get an "exclusive interview".
The quality of writing is the high point of this production. In the week where Danny has to complete his challenge, we see, constantly, how people treat him with cynicism and doubt. He is so consumed in his work and task that his relationship with Laura suffers too. Felicity Green plays Laura with finesse, bringing out both a positive, supporting friend, and a person who's upset and isolated. There's a lot of maturity to her portrayal.
The side plot of Laura’s relationship with boyfriend Ian (James Bowen) also blends in well. Live music, supplied by Bowen, provides a nice interlude, and the use of the space is good: in particular, the supermarket scene is genius.
The first few minutes are a little confusing; because of the lack of leads in the blurb, it takes a while for the audience to sum up what is going on. Adding to that effect, there is a slight mismatch between some halting speech we hear played on the speakers and the live performance from Robertson. It isn’t at first entirely evident that we are listening to the same person.
But this is a minor flaw in what is an honest, compelling and moving account of the difficulties of hearing loss, and the power of perseverance. Even though the run at the Fringe has ended, I will be sure to watch out for any other productions from Rumble Theatre.