AND I AND SILENCE
by Naomi Wallace.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 4 June 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 May.
Quietly impressive play in impressive production.
Enjoying this – and, despite the troubled lives of its two young women, shown alternately either side of a nine-year span, there is a sympathetic warmth in their relationship – seems a guilty pleasure. How can the loveliness of the writing and the emotional generosity of Dee and Jamie not be enjoyable; yet how can it be OK to sit enjoying their struggles?
Though the play starts with apparent conflict, the fight between the two soon resolves into playful delight at meeting again. Friends reunited? Still in their mid-twenties, they became acquainted nine years earlier, as teenagers in prison.
And in prison, at first, the relationship is hostile. Prison doesn’t supply instinctive trust. And this is the USA, and the imprisoned past is 1950, and Young Dee is White, while the defensive Young Jamie is not. “White block” is how she responds to the other’s information about her cell location.
Four immaculate performances fill this production, the older and younger pairings alternating, then finally coming together. The only compromise, as it seems, on the Finborough’s small stage is with Cecilia Carey’s set, that demands the insertion and removal of a high, barred-window as the play moves between 1950 and 1959. But the apparent awkwardness turns out to have its point as, finally, the bars remain for the late-fifties scenes.
For these two are trapped together, in society at large as in prison, by their colour divide and shared poverty. And as it’s society that prevents their friendship developing freely, they can only be together by abandoning society and the life which surrounds them.
So finely does Naomi Wallace display the relationship, with its hopes, joys and sorrows, and so beautifully do both pairs of actors portray this, with the tough practicality of people who know their existence will always depend upon others with more authority and wealth, if no other type of superiority, it seems a pity finally to introduce the stage pretences that accompany the final bonding, the only way out.
Yet it’s a minor point in director Caitlin McLeod’s charting of the relationship through its time-switches and individual moods.
Young Dee: Lauren Crace.
Dee: Sally Oliver.
Jamie: Cat Simmons.
Young Jamie: Cherrelle Skeete.
Director: Caitlin McLeod.
Designer: Cecilia Carey.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Music: Ben Osborn, Tegid Cartwright.
Costume: Ed Parry.
Assistant director: Tim Newns.