Theatre Review: Verständnis at Nonsuch Studios

Words: Jared Wilson
Tuesday 06 December 2022
reading time: min, words

A bilingual play about identity, language and dual nationality; written, directed, illustrated and performed by a group of people who hail from multiple countries...


As well as the actors, the other major presence on stage comes in the forms of visuals provided by artist Raphael Achache, who has created over 150 A2 watercolours on pieces of card. These are layered in two boxes which interchanged by the actors on stage throughout to illustrate and move the story along. Although many directors would have plumped for the use of a screen for this, this is a highly innovative and quite beautiful way of illustrating the performance.

Whether it is by design or accidental, it is interesting that most of those involved in the play, both on and off stage, bring with them their own experiences of dual-nationality. It’s clear that the emotional experiences of those involved are what makes this a really enjoyable watch, particularly in the post-Brexit era, although the emotions are subtle and measured throughout.

The lexophiles among you particularly will enjoy exploring some new German diction, particularly things we don’t have natural alternatives for in English. Two of my favourites were ‘Fernweh’ (desiring a place you have never been to – the opposite of homesickness) and ‘Kopfkino’ (translated as head cinema – playing through possible future events in your mind).  However, ‘Mutterseelenallein’ (Mothers Soul Alone) is probably the one that resonates most by the time you reach the end.

Verständnis [Understanding] was performed at Nonsuch Studios on Monday 5 December 2022 as part of a midlands tour

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