And I And Silence
Finborough Theatre Spring 2011
This is a play that wants to make you weep, and is quite likely to succeed, so touching is its story.
Indeed, the only real criticism to make of playwright Naomi Wallace is that she may be trying unnecessarily hard, adding unneeded layers of pathos to a core that is sufficiently strong in itself.
Wallace shows us two lost souls, teenage inmates in a women's prison who connect strongly enough that their friendship/romance and very modest dreams of a future help them survive the system, only to discover on release that the world outside is even more overpowering and unforgiving.
To present the sad clash of small dreams and smaller possibilities, Wallace divides each character, with one pair of actresses playing the younger girls and another their older selves, alternating and sometimes overlapping their scenes.
Occasionally a bit mechanical and unwieldy, the device ultimately proves unnecessary, since the real story is in the released women's discovery that their very limited skills and opportunities make even the hope of small jobs and small romances beyond their grasp.
The pathos of the later scenes is powerful on its own and doesn't really need or gain much from the ironic contrast to the naive optimism of the younger girls, and I suspect that the play would be at least as effective had the playwright concentrated on the older characters and eliminated the flashbacks.
Similarly, making one of the women black and one white, and setting the play in 1950s America, adds a burden of racism that the play doesn't need and that is really irrelevant.
The story is more about the handicaps of economics, sexism and lack of education, and their crippling power is fully dramatised and sufficiently moving without adding race to the mix.
The play does provide an excellent showcase for the four actresses, and, under Caitlin McLeod's sensitive direction, Lauren Crace and Cherrelle Skeete as the younger pair and Sally Oliver and Cat Simmons as their older counterparts are equally evocative and touching.
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Review - And I And Silence - Finborough Theatre 2011