by Filter and David Farr.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 28 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 28 May 2.30pm.
Captioned 24 May.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 May.
Strongly-styled piece leaves the question how vital performance style is to the matter hand.
At the centre of their current Hampstead threesome the RSC join with theatrical sound-specialists Filter in Silence (no relation to Moira Buffini’s play of the name). It’s a high-tech premiere (technicians sit at opposite corners below or above the stage), showing fragmented lives where silence is achieved only at the very end, after a blare of sound and light.
Events start with Katy talking about the constant ringing in her ears. Her marriage to Peter is a surface accommodation, disrupted by a call to return to her lover from Russia’s early-glasnost rock underground.
Stripped-back for Jon Bausor’s setting (Hampstead has never appeared so huge), the stage is a neutral area, patrolled by characters who, partly owing to the head-mikes they’re heard through, partly to the flattish style of delivery in David Farr’s production, remain emotionally estranged.
Slender, moveable columns mark-out areas, while a cinematic fluidity repeatedly counterpoints locations. A smart Russian restaurant stands alongside a downbeat British caff, the waiting staff shifting between slouching sullenness and attentive deference when they move between the two.
And a sound-engineer creates a soundscape of his apartment for his mother, including elements picked-up from his neighbour. The sense of strangers intruding into lives recurs as a TV documentary-maker lulls a retired policeman into revealing secrets of state surveillance. This breakthrough moment is ruined by sound.
Beneath the noise lies intense loneliness. The Russian lover is dismissed at the door by the English husband while he and friends are laughing loudly at a party-game. And the wife, Kate, thanks her husband for a lovely night, not knowing he’s just turned her love away. Meanwhile, early glasnost relationships have been fragmented by gangsterism.
Only in the silent closing seconds are the lovers left free amid their own silence.
Silence is very cleverly constructed, and might be developed several ways as a film scenario. But live, with technology upfront and the performances distant in manner, the jigsaw construction can seem contrived, leaving doubts as to whether the performance style is necessary for the action, or whether plainer means might have taken things further. It’s undoubtedly imaginative, though.
Michael: Oliver Dimsdale.
Natasha: Christine Entwisle.
Mary/Irina: Mariah Gale.
Ivan: Paul Hamilton.
Nikolas: Richard Katz.
Peter: Jonjo O’Neill.
Alexei: Ferdy Roberts.
Kenneth/Josef: Patrick Romer.
Kate: Katy Stephens.
Director: David Farr.
Designer: Jon Bausor.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound/Music: Tim Phillips.
Video: Douglas O’Connell.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Assistant director: Justin Audibert.