Brighton Fringe 2011
Enjoy a spoonful of slience as you take tea with the inhabitant of a land where words are precious commodities, grown, harvested, eaten and traded, in a charming piece of site specific theatre.
Hold a warm cup in your hand and embark on a journey to the present moment…Mandana grows letters in her field…
In this unique production from Entre les Mots, Eléonore Nicolas entreats us to consider the value of silence by inviting us into her kitchen, to sit around the table, listen to her story and to generally slow down, and immerse ourselves in a far, far healthier tempo.
We sit in a room, an evocation of a peasant home (The very suitable Nightingale Hotel kitchen); we are guests in the home of an inhabitant of a land that cultivates letters, eats them and trades them. Words are a finite resource and silence is the literal means in our host’s (and the metaphorical means in our) world to value language and the gloriousness of silence. The metaphor mostly works in a quirky piece of theatre that physically walks its talk. We are warmed and calmed from the start, eased into listening mode. There’s an impressice and affecting attention to detail in the design of the performance space. We walk with our watching and listening, as well as some physical involvement, through a Calvino-esque world in which one metaphysical element from ours (namely the true value of language and words) is physicalised in hers.
We are immersed in a surreality that is never too unfamiliar and thus never too far from our own familiar life. And that’s where the piece’s strength really lies. This is intimate, immersive and the surreal qualities are highly accessible throughout. The performer’s story style is charismatic, though occasionally lacking in clarity.
There’s a texture to the piece that harmonises across the vocal delivery – the script, the setting, the props and the rituals of tea and cake. It’s an affecting and effective performance that feels as if it generates it’s own resistance as it is ultimately a binge of words that we are required to engage in in order to understand the value of words and silence. This is clever, theme-wise, but actually makes us more passive than authentically silent – at least during this particular performance.The silence works best, not when we are passively listening to the polemic on the value of words, but when we are silently watching, partaking and engaging in the silent acts, the ceremony and rhythmic ritual. More of that would really add to the immersion and quality as theatre.
That said, it is at times moving, funny, charming, and clever. It felt too long in terms of the presentation of information, rather than the telling of story, or the sharing of experience. Get that balance right and this could be a truly special, even outstanding work of site-specific theatre.