I watched Shhhh in a state of complete bafflement. And not in a good way. This was bafflement bred of boredom; bafflement bred of a play that tried and failed miserably to string together anything coherent. Given its premise, Shhhh is, I suspect, doomed from the beginning.
Let me explain how the show works. At the start of the performance, two actors stand on stage. They stand in front of a black, translucent screen, upon which, later, silent-movie style subtitles are projected. One actor has a blackboard; one has a sign inviting us to write an occupation on the blackboard. Whichever occupation the audience chooses becomes the title - and, supposedly, dictates the improvised plot - of the improvised-film style play to follow.
The audience of which I was a part, after a false start with 'The Cobbler', settled on 'The Tattoo Artist'. It's impossible to judge Shhhh on 'The Tattoo Artist', given that every audience will choose a different occupation, so every performance will be different. However, given that it must be almost impossible to improvise a coherent, hour long silent-film-play on the spot at all, let alone one that sticks to the theme, I can't imagine that any performance in this run is worth watching.
The cast themselves seemed aware of this problem. In the opening five minutes or so, they certainly kept to the theme. We watched various characters mime coming into what we understood to be a tattoo parlour, mime the reception of some mimed tattoos and mime-exit. The rest of the show went in a blur. I remember several awkward 'Meanwhile...' subtitles, some supposedly hilarious men-impersonating-women gags and very little else. The plot was difficult to follow, the mime was inept and lazy and the theme of 'The Tattoo Artist' barely perceptible.
What's worse, the subtitles which sporadically pop up on the screen are often either misspelt or conspicuously lacking a word or punctuation mark. 'The famiy is reunited' was the most obvious; the bizarrely colloquial 'Few minutes later' less so, but still irritating. Given that this show claims to be 'inspired by the film and ambiance of the silent era', the least it could do, surely, is capture the tone and language of the silent film subtitle.
Shhhh claims to be 'suitable for people of any nationality as well as those with hearing difficulties'. I disagree - particularly with the latter claim, given that the tinkling piano music that accompanies is the only element that successfully evokes the silent film theme. Improvised comedy is difficult at the best of times; this is surely one of the worst.