‘There should always be difficulty in a relationship’ says one of the three male characters in the premiere of Then Silence, Norwegian writer Arne Lygre’s 60-minute play. ‘Alleged goodness should be confronted’ says someone else, whilst character number three, Brother, One or Another [I was not sure], ruminates on the problems of matching language with thoughts.. One thing is written or said whilst yet something else is thought…
It’s a moment of philosophical analysis in a play where 3 men stranded somewhere- it could be a raft on the sea, or on top of a mountain- but anyway it is a somewhere that is not made clear- seek to find meaning, stave off loneliness, understand reality and, ultimately, fight each other to be the last man standing. Lygre does this by having the men invent 10 stories, almost parables, dense with poetical images, which explore what man must do in order to survive. Survive as a memory, as a lover, as a mother whose child dies, as a prisoner who is tortured, as a young boy who is bullied in a war game, even as pioneers of a newly invented country. The ten scenarios are all written as conventional dramatic dialogues but are interspersed with comments on the dramatic action by the characters themselves- or as Lygre himself calls them- ‘hyper lines’. It may seem like narrative theatre or reflecting Brecht’s Epic Theatre but for Lygre, these hyper lines are a way of getting into the self- by first getting out of the self and using third person singular to do so. The effect is to make it seem that the characters are inventing the stories as they go along, it’s role play as the characters onstage slip into other virtual realities and imagined scenarios, pushing the boundaries of mostly male tenderness, eroticism and violence. It is ambiguous theatre to the extent that no one can tell for sure what is the reality of the play and who are the real characters and questions the ‘I’, the ego, and the author, by making constant demands on the actors to drop all of these things.
Brilliantly directed by Kay Michael, with some explosive and dynamic acting from all of the cast- the rhythms and build-ups to each scenario’s epiphanous moments were a pleasure to watch. I also enjoyed all aspects of this production, the movement direction, set, light and sound all redolent of a holistic approach. I was glad to catch this show, introducing me as it has, to a playwright I’ve never heard of, but am now very excited about and certainly want to see more of. A great UK premiere of his work, it would be fantastic to see other theatres take up the baton and give him more UK exposure.
Then Silence is at Platform Theatre Studio, Central Saint Martins, until Saturday 24th May, excluding Wednesday, and is part of their BA directing public shows
Tickets are free but must be booked in advance
Cast Brother Ben Woodhall
One Hugo Bolton
Another Elyot Burnett
Director Kay Michael
Designer Denisa Dumitrescu
Lighting Designer Alex Hopkins
Sound Designer Liam Quinn
Movement Sara Green
Assistant Director David Burnett
Stage Manager Diana Fraser