by Linda Brogan and Polly Teale.
Shared Experience Tour to 26 November 2011.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 September at The North Wall Oxford.
Where theatricality adds, but can also get in the way of a fascinating story.
In recent years Shared Experience theatre company has devoted a lot of time to the Brontës, literary sisters from 19th-century Yorkshire who as children created their own secret world. Moving on, Shared Experience are now reviving their 2010 production, in association with Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru, of Linda Brogan and (Shared Experience joint director) Polly Teale’s piece based on The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace.
This is about two girls from the Caribbean, living in England, who chose, from the age of 4, to speak to nobody but each other. The play starts when they’re 14, the age at which society really took notice – as they were to do even more when the girls became involved in crime, leading them to Broadmoor.
Brogan and Teale have decided the cause of their silence pact relates to imperialism, which would make them the arch non-integrationists. They secretly enact the royal event of the day, Prince Charles marrying Lady Diana Spencer, with models they conceal from their mother. They add, and fight over, their own TV-style commentary. They suppose their father, a pilot, flying overhead.
Like the Brontës, they wrote – mainly diaries, though one is seen writing a novel, but sending it to a vanity publisher, and so getting nowhere. Their encapsulated world wasn’t harmonious – indeed, a lot more fascinating information might be included, and more clearly, in a piece less designed for theatricality.
At its best, the piece is riveting. When a well-intentioned teacher tries a half-successful strategy, giving them cards with questions and asking them to place these in the appropriate box, Natasha Gordon and Demi Oyediran consider together, moving as one towards the same box. When asked who, for example, they’d tell a secret, they move together, then their arms cross each other as they bend to place trust in the box with their sister’s name.
But the physicality, so sharp at the opening, has few opportunities like this. Anita Reynolds repeatedly has to talk to no-one as their mother, and Alex Robertson, as the one male, presumably there to encourage them towards crime, has to cope with a stereotypically-written role.
Jennifer Gibbons: Natasha Gordon.
June Gibbons: Demi Oyediran.
Psychiatrist/Headmistress/Cathy: Katie Lightfoot.
Gloria Gibbons: Anita Reynolds.
Kennedy: Alex Robertson.
Director: Polly Teale.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound/Composer: Peter Salem.
Technical Sound: Gareth Evans.
Movement: Liz Ranken.