'Silence' review or 'Yes, it really is golden.'
'Silence', Filter Company and RSC
Hampstead Theatre, Wednesday 18th May 2011
Written for The Ham & High
A booming base reverberates through a club, lights flash harshly and a young woman dances furiously on the spot. A man enters through smoky swirls and, at his command, the mayhem halts. The two lovers whisper together, their connection cutting through the chaos. This is Filter's and RSC's 'Silence', a finely tuned production about the ways we watch, listen and often fail to learn.
As is the usual fare with Filter, 'Silence' contains a number of disparate plot threads that gradually tie together. The night club scenes revisit the relationship between English Kate (Katy Stephens – warm but resolute) and Russian dissident Alexei (Ferdy Roberts), who meet in Moscow, fall deeply in love, part and spend the rest of their lives searching for each other. Laced in between are the travails of Natasha's husband Michael (Oliver Dimsdale), a documentary maker investigating the surveillance of agitators in the 1990 riots.
It sounds complicated and it is. As the stories unfurl, it takes a real effort to keep hold of the threads. Indeed, initially it is the special effects (the clever use of screens, the ingenious soundscape, Bausor's sparse but neatly defined set) and the beautifully amplified walk-on roles that most impress. However, as David Farr's show settles down, the main characters thicken, the themes solidify and 'Silence' really begins to resonate.
The addition of the RSC ensemble to Filter's normal troupe ensures this is an emotionally, as well as aesthetically and intellectually, satisfying show. Thunder bolts of feeling shoot through this inventive look at the everyday noises that compromise real communication. With the groundwork carefully laid, simple moments take on a profound significance. When Mariah Gale's lost Australian immigrant wails, 'I am lonely', as the one person who might love her listens through an adjacent wall, she seems to speak for everyone.