Five Kinds of Silence

This jump-cutting adaptation of Shelagh Stephenson’s drama following two generations of domestic abuse is a decent attempt at a school-level production. Five Kinds of Silence deals with horrific issues with maturity, but it lacks anything to grab the imagination. It is straightforward, easy to remain focused upon, but largely uninspiring as it uses predictable and traditional theatrical techniques to guide audience attention and sympathies.

An impressive debut

As the production attempts to answer our initial questions about the complex family construct, continuity errors unfortunately create more questions. An eclectic array of contemporary suits, vibrant 80s knits and drab 60s attire leaves the show lost in its own confusion. It is difficult to invest in a performance which centres around shifts in time when each scene features retro elements and modern components. Despite the lack of clarity, the dialogue is fast-paced and emotive, and vintage tracks boost energy when the delivery gets bogged down.

Powerful instances from the young MGA Academy actors sees moments of harrowing truth. A microphone is used innovatively in multi-roling, which is taken on with vigour by principal characters, who show versatility and resourcefulness. Though Scottish accents creep through the northern dialect of the play, it is a convincing effort by the performers to tackle such chilling subject matter.

Though a lack of dramaturgical imagination is prevalent, potent occurrences of innovation add elements of theatrical impulse to anticipated scenes. Slow-motion dancing breaks up the intense dialogue and physical writhing on the constant bed prop elevates sections to unsettling experiences.

There is nothing to particularly dislike about Five Kinds of Silence, but nothing to inspire either. It is an impressive debut, especially considering the twisted psychological depths to the story. However, it would benefit from some variation in structure and style, to lift it from a school production to a professional novelty.

Reviews by Yasmin Duggal

C venues – C primo

The Chess Player

★★★★★
C venues – C royale

Stegosaurus

★★★★★
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Five Kinds of Silence

★★★
C venues – C primo

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★★★
C venues – C royale

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The chilling story of a family who try to free themselves from the power of the vicious Billy, who abuses his wife, Mary, and their children, Susan and Janet. Exploring ideas of abuse being continued from childhood, we discover that Billy was himself abused, and has replayed this with his own children. The story unfolds through interviews with police and psychologists, with the absent Billy a sinister presence throughout. Shelah Stephenson’s heart-wrenching play won both the 1996 UK Writers Guild's Best Original Play award and the 1997 Sony Award for Best Original Drama.