Five Kinds of Silence

Shelagh Stephenson

The People's Theatre

Quaker Meeting House

From 22 August 2016 to 27 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by Catherine Lamm

Abuse and violence breed abuse and violence. In too many instances, violence and abuse are learned and tolerated. For too many families, it become an acceptable norm.

Here, Billy (Gordon Russell) has a wife, Mary (Val Russell), and two daughters, Susan (Anna Dobson) and Janet (Nicky White), who love him—“he’s our father, after all”—and fear him. The scars, internal and external, are the secrets of generation pass-down, taught.

It has been the accepted norm for Billy, also. He is the product of the kind of home he has created: "What I say goes." He feels safe with the familiar. And one day, finally, the two daughters shoot their father. The mother’s response is, “I should have done it years ago".

And the police are called. “Why didn’t you leave him?” “I did. When he came to get me, he said he was sorry and that he loved me. When we got home, he broke three of my ribs.” This is the kind of abuse and violence perpetrated on both Billy and Mary from childhood. And their families before them. Mary: “it ends here.”

Playwright Shelagh Stephenson gives us all the logic of why it happened. The script is sympathetic, fluid and poignant. And sad.

Kath Frazer’s direction is flawless, and intelligent. It makes good use of the space and the actors. The actors, especially the four main characters, are well cast: clear, crisp and uncluttered without the usual actor traps. A special nod to Tim Swinton’s technical designs.

If there is fault, it would be that the script is only slightly overwritten and flat. And the seven additional characters could probably be eliminated or portrayed by one actor.