Five Kinds of Silence**** (White Bear Kennington, 13 February 2012)

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

A gunshot rings out and an aggressor falls to the ground; a young woman is holding the gun and another young woman grabs it to fire a second shot and make sure that the man is dead. An older woman, their mother, looks on. The dead man is the father in the family, but he is not dead to the three women so long as he continues to haunt their minds and his threatening presence on the stage dominates throughout the play’s 90 minutes. This a study of violence inside a family which never resorts to simplistic explanations nor points the finger of blame in a single direction. Yes, the father is guilty of appalling physical, psychological and sexual abuse but the play, whilst never excusing him, is able to show how he was himself a victim of childhood traumas. It also questions the extent to which the three women were complicit in their own and each other’s torment. Set on a near empty stage in a small studio space, the fluid direction ensures that every member of the audience is drawn into the intense drama, as the women gradually reveal their secrets and attempt to understand what has happened so as to rid their minds of the horrors. As Billy, the father, Zach Lee is stunning, making it perfectly credible that the three women could loathe and love him at the same time; his character is both a perpetrator and a victim of violence, suffering from alcoholism and epilepsy, yet, however monstrously he behaves, the actor is still able to eke out a degree of sympathy for him. As Mary, the mother, Tessa Wood gives a moving performance, her character was a neglected child who seemed cast by nature into the role of victim; yet she is aware of her own inability to stop the abuse and, understanding that it crosses generations, she is determined that she does not want grandchildren. Violet Ryder plays Janet, the older daughter as clear-thinking and resolute in determining the only way to end the horror, but equally vulnerable and prone to emotional outbursts. Olivia Dennis plays her younger sister Susan as more confused by her own emotions and racked by personal guilt. Anthony Hoskyns as the women’s interrogator completes the quintet of fine actors. This play is produced by Stepping Out Theatre, the leading mental health theatre group. The writing is stark and unflinching, but still able to allow for occasional dashes of humour. The characters in the play are people who live amongst us. Their plight was allowed to continue because all four remained silent. Yet the outside world saw signs too and also remained silent. Even in its title, this play asks questions of us all.

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