Five Kinds of Silence

It’s hard to imagine a more emotionally-gruelling hour of theatre: three women held prisoner by an abusive patriarch finally free themselves from his clutches by shooting him in his bed, before being forced to relive decades of trauma by lawyers and psychiatrists. This excellent adaptation from community-based theatre company, The People’s Theatre, doesn’t shy away from the brutality of Shelagh Stephenson’s popular play, but they also endow it with tenderness and sensitivity.

An intelligent and restrained adaptation of Stephenson’s brilliant play.

Director Kath Frazer opts for a refreshingly unfussy staging, letting the performances speak for themselves. Anna Dobson’s Susan and Nicky White’s Janet hammer home the impact of decades of abuse. They’re emotionally shut off and trapped in a childlike mentality from Billy’s relentless, authoritarian rule, but also speak with a captivating bluntness.

Val Russell, as their mother, Mary, gives the show’s standout performance. Her intonation when walking in on her daughters’ patricide makes for the blackest of comedy, and her monologues on Mary’s early romance with Billy and the hellish marriage that followed are played with incredible delicacy. Janet and Susan are repeatedly asked by uncomprehending professionals why they’re not angry with their mother for doing nothing to stop or speak out against the abuse, and you want to scream at them for getting it so wrong – Russell’s every word shows the impossibility of intervention.

Billy’s (Gordon Russell) continued presence on stage initially feels like a distraction from the more compelling matter of his victims’ recovery, but soon his monologues add a new depth to the narrative as he too is revealed to be the victim of abusive parents. Russell is just as loathsome as you’d expect, but there’s also a real vulnerability in his reading of the character. His gesticulations and whining tone provide a marked contrast with his wife’s inherent gentleness and his daughter’s stillness and staccato replies – deep down they have a strength which Billy lacks.

Moments of renewed confidence in human nature come when the three female leads share centre stage, their collective strength fortified now they’re free of their tormentor. Frazer has captured a quiet and hesitant optimism at the heart of Stephenson’s play, a confidence that with Billy gone the cycle of abused becoming abusers will finally end. Though at times hard to watch, The People’s Theatre give an intelligent and restrained adaptation of Stephenson’s brilliant play. 

Reviews by Simon Fearn

Paradise in The Vault

Hyena

★★★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Bull

★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Broken Fanny

★★★★
Quaker Meeting House

Five Kinds of Silence

★★★★
SpaceTriplex

About a Girl

★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Procrastinate

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Mary, Janet and Susan have endured years of abuse at the hands of the cruel, tyrannical Billy. Now he's dead – but his influence is far from over. As a team of lawyers and psychiatrists unpick their past, the three women must learn to rebuild their lives in the wake of what's happened to them. From Newcastle's celebrated People's Theatre, comes a powerful new production of Shelagh Stephenson's haunting drama.

Most Popular See More

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets