Five Kinds of Silence is a 'powerful and thought-provoking production' at the Abbey Theatre Studio
- Credit: Jon Schick
Madeleine Burton reviews Five Kinds of Silence at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.
A sinister form of silence is hanging over the Abbey Theatre Studio this week as the Company of Ten tackle what must be the most gruelling play in their current repertoire.
Shelagh Stephenson’s Five Kinds of Silence is set in the 1980s but sadly the type of abuse it portrays is still as rife today.
And far from ending with the death of the abuser Billy, it opens with his murder at the hands of his daughters – and with the full support of their mother.
Yet Billy remains the key character in a play that examines how his daughters are driven to kill their own father to gain a freedom they had never had while he was alive.
Five Kinds of Silence is played out in the intimate surroundings of the Studio where the audience is far more involved in what is happening than on the main stage.
And the actors, skilfully directed by Rosemary Goodman, use that to its full advantage, particularly Billy, a remarkable performance by Rory Byrne.
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His brooding and controlling presence together with an easy arousal to violence is utterly believable throughout.
He stands so close to his daughters as they are quizzed by police, lawyers and a psychiatrist after his death that you can only admire how they continue to act so powerfully when his face is just inches from their own.
And if anyone doubts that Rory gives his all as Billy, you only have to look at his face as the cast members take their bow. He is clearly exhausted.
Lianne Weidmann as Susan, the daughter who has to relate the extent of the abuse she has suffered from her father, and Susie Evershed as the weaker daughter, much more prone to tears, are well cast.
They are totally believable as two women who have never had a life of their own and are the victims of a spiral of abuse that goes back to their father’s childhood.
Their subjugation is demonstrated by the fact they are dressed as dowdily as their mother Mary, herself a victim of childhood abuse.
Elena Markham gives a moving performance as a woman who believed she had married a kind and caring man.
Supporting roles in a powerful and thought-provoking production are taken by Deborah Cole, David Bailey, Jane Fookes and Peter McEntee.
Five Kinds of Silence is not an easy play to watch but for the first-rate direction and performances, it is well worth joining the audience in the Studio that is open again for the first time since the pandemic took hold.
It runs until Saturday, October 16, and tickets can be obtained from www.abbeytheatre.org.uk