The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
The Absence Of Silence
Chickenshed Theatre and YouTube November-December 2020
This one-hour piece of verbatim theatre was assembled by Chickenshed Theatre from interviews and group sessions with abused women and shaped by playwright Dave Carey. First produced by Chickenshed in 2016, it is now available online.
multi-camera video is excellent, though the sound is weak, and you will
find yourself relying largely on the subtitles.
Five women in or recently escaped from abusive marriages have a picnic
on a beach, a fictional premise adequate for allowing believable sharing
of stories and support.
noticeable that there is very little talk of physical violence, and in
fact the dominant theme of the play is that the real and most damaging
abuse is psychological and spiritual. From the constant vile insults,
through the you-make-me-do-this accusations, to the theft of a sense of
security and even of self, the women bear scars not visible on their
not me any more,' says one, while another fears for the lessons her
children are learning. In the longest speech of the play one woman tries
to explain to herself how she can still love the man who abuses her, and
even those who have divorced and moved on know he is out there
second important message of the play is the immense value of support
from those who understand. Director Joseph Morton illustrates this
visually in a beautiful sequence in which one woman's story of running
away morphs into a dance and mime in which the others literally carry
her to freedom.
it is also there in the moments, carefully inserted at frequent
intervals, in which the women can briefly forget their separate
histories and just enjoy each other's company.
might be one small criticism of the play that, as my description may
have suggested, it does change modes and tones with each new sequence,
rather than finding a single performance vocabulary capable of
expressing it all.
greater limitation is that, for all its moments of power, the play never
really escapes the feel that it should be followed, like many television
shows, with 'If you have been affected by any of the issues in this
program...' (and indeed the theatre programme provides such contacts).
Still, In The Absence Of Silence says what it wants to say, the performances by Charlotte Bull, Elsie Lyons, Jojo Morrall, Louise Perry and Holly Skinner are impeccable, and the hour is a powerful one.
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