Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Silent Treatment

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

A ticking clock is pretty much the only sound to be heard as the massed ranks of Lung Ha Theatre Company enter what looks like an old-fashioned school-room one by one at the opening of Douglas Maxwell's new play. With the procession itself delivered with masterly deadpan aplomb, what follows concerns the comic consequences of a sponsored silence being held to raise funds for the seriously ill mother of teenage Billie, who is also taking part in the event.

It is Billie herself, however, who is unable to keep her mouth shut for more than a few seconds, whereupon her exclusion from the quietude prompts an altogether noisier vow as Billie co-opts new girl Stacey to help cause as much disruption as possible. What follows is a series of extended cartoon-style sketches that overlap, collide into and tumble over each other by way of a loose-knit narrative that puts Billie and Stacey's Wile E. Coyote style attempts at sabotage at its centre. Pivoting around this is a blossoming romance, a quintet of bowler-hatted builders and a game of pass the parcel with the broken head of a religious statue.

Maria Oller's jaunty production capitalises on the sheer ridiculousness of Maxwell's set-up by navigating her twenty-strong ensemble led by Nicola Tuxworth and Emma Clark as Billie and Stacey through all this on Jessica Brettle's set with prat-falling knockabout glee. This is aided hugely by a musical score by MJ McCarthy that bubbles under the action throughout, and which sounds part silent movie, part 1970s sit-com. While chattier than advertised, Maxwell's script fizzes with invention and a playfulness that speaks volumes in a way that words can't always muster.

The Herald, April 4th 2016

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