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Silence, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Moira Buffini
Directed by Jonathan Bradshaw

★★★

Pros: Meaty on content and message – a strong mix of darkness, comedy and grit.

Cons: This is a long evening (almost three hours including an interval) and while the production is well crafted and well performed, the writing lacks consistency and balance.

Our Verdict: An interesting look into the fate of women in the Dark Ages raising thought-provoking questions on identity, sexuality and gender in an exciting and chilling tale.

‘Women are strongest in their silence’ is a tough gem of wisdom to swallow in this day and age but it is a profound one in Moira Buffini’s Silence.

Courtesy of The Brockley Jack Theatre

Set in the Dark Ages in England when the Vikings were raping and pillaging the land, Ymma of Normandy is sent to England by her brother as a punishment. A fiery, strong and independent woman whose lack of silence often places her in danger, she is caged by the era in which she is born, a true victim of her time.

On being introduced to Silence, Lord of Cumbria, a 14 year old ‘heathen’ Viking, the King decides to marry him off to Ymma. Having a profound hatred for men due to previous abuse, Ymma is not too happy with the match but finds out on her wedding night that she really had nothing to worry about because Silence is a young woman. Having been born after her father’s death, she was raised by her mother and a priest as a man which Silence herself is strangely unaware of. As Ymma explains, Silence’s mother gave her the greatest gift of all as a boy – a freedom and power that she would not have achieved as a girl. It’s a position Ymma envies and, being newly married to this person, this is a relationship she wants to use to her advantage.

The play is not so much about this big revelation but rather its aftermath and the consequences that could ensue from two women united in a holy union. Instead of the jolly antics of two women taking over as the Dark Ages power couple, what follows is a rather bizarre plot. The King of England has an apocalyptic dream featuring Ymma which spurs him to transform his ineffective rule into a murderous affectation of terror as he chases Ymma and Silence on their way to the young Lord’s home in Cumbria. It’s a strangely dark turn from a humorous yet savvy and insightful first half. The production, though innovatively and cohesively directed by Jonathan Bradshaw, lacked clear direction and the script itself did not follow through on certain plot points and seemed all too quick to solve a sticky situation with a quick murder.

However, Silence has been given a brave and committed portrayal by the entire cast who must be commended for portraying these characters from the distant past so convincingly. Acknowledgement must also go to composer and sound designer Thomas Gray for giving this world further dimension and emotion with a suitably subtle but tremendously effective score and sound scape.

While this production raised some interesting questions about gender identity and equality, the story itself felt unclear in terms of genre and, quite often, it just did not sit right. Despite this, however, I would recommend Silence as an unusual production with a certain amount of predictability and a sprinkling of unpredictability too!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!

Silence runs at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until 23 March 2013.
Box Office: 0844 8400 887 or book online at: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/brockley_jack_studio_whats_on.html

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