Silence – Theatr Biuro Podrozy
Wed 22 May – Sat 25 May; Black Rock
“This city has a 10 million souls” declares the sign silhouetted against the evening sky. “Souls” is the term used in the aviation industry to describe passengers on a plane about to crash; the inhabitants of this city are also doomed. The outdoor spectacle piece by Polish company Tetre Biuro Podrozy powerfully evokes the terror of a city and its people under occupation. Referencing the sacking of Troy and modern day atrocities in Iraq and Syria, this thought-provoking piece brings the violence to Brighton and forces the audience to imagine how they would react.
A pounding soundtrack builds the tension as the city’s inhabitants run in terror from with towering, fire-wielding figures and are subjected to humiliation and violence from power-crazed motorbike-riding soldiers. Most moving is the way the adults attempt to protect their children from the violence; cradling child-sized mannequins, shielding their eyes and handing them out of burning buildings while trying to create a pretence of normality in their shattered lives. I pictured myself trying to protect my 5year old son from such horrors and my stomach churned.
With few words, Silence is primarily an emotional piece with little narrative or character development. It is repetitive, perhaps deliberately to capture the relentless brutality of life in a war zone. I was immersed but my partner muttered “OK, I get it now”.
The final scene was chilling in its depiction of the casual disregard for the lives and hopes of people fleeing terror by those fortunate enough not to have experienced it. It illustrated perfectly the dehumanisation and “othering” of people caught up in violence, not only by perpetrators of violence but also by states and individuals who fail to help those seeking safety. This is an important piece for our troubled and divided times.