Review Round Up: Silence, Donmar Warehouse

Discover what critics have had to say about this new play which opens at the Donmar Warehouse before heading to the Tara Theatre.

© Manuel Harlan

Whats On Stage: *** “The stories are intensely moving. Yet Tara artistic director Abdul Shayek directs with a documentary eye, letting each character speak plainly, not adding additional emotion. It’s an honourable approach but not one that lets Silence fly as drama. There’s a sense of reticence in this production and I couldn’t help wondering if it might not have been better to let one writer shape the story, rather than relying on this patchwork of tales. Nevertheless, Silence is essential viewing – an act of collective remembering that propels a key moment in history back into the spotlight, where it belongs.”

Evening Standard: *** “It’s powerful, painful stuff. Still, these stories’ impact is often muted by the performers’ halting delivery, and by Tara Theatre artistic director Abdul Shayek’s cramped, documentary-style staging. An overly elaborate assemblage of canvas screens takes up the bulk of the Donmar’s small stage, leaving the actors with only a small strip of playing space.” 

The Guardian: *** “Still, the production leaves us deeply moved; Puri opens her book with her father’s silence, broken after 70 years, and the plot here drives towards the untold story of Mina’s father, which brings the biggest emotional punch.”

The Arts Desk: **** “Dramatisation of Kavita Puri’s Partition Voices is moving and compelling.”

The Telegraph: ** “The testimonies from British South Asians are harrowing, but the specifics of history are lost in this unexciting production.”

The Reviews Hub: ** “What we hear is truly shocking, but key elements of human drama are missing and the accounts heard are never as moving as we feel they should be. As one horror story follows another, repetition begins to drain the drama of its power, resulting in the intended climax, when Mina’s father eventually opens out, becoming the biggest disappointment of all.”

Broadway World: “However, overall, the form does feel a clunky; as the central protagonist’s plot feels lost amongst the documentary, Humans of New York style way of delivery. The two contrasts in a way that blocks action from happening. You are lulled into an equilibria state and crave more disruption. The piece is shocking at its core, and very important to experience; thematically it is very strong, yet in terms of craft it’s falling a little short.”

Time Out: **** “Directed by the artistic director of Tara, Abdul Shayek, the confessions in ‘Silence’ are handled with dignity and care. Designed by Rose Revitt with large hanging canvas screens that show buzzing projections of archive footage between scenes, the stage largely gives space to voices rather than things.”

The Stage: *** “Kavita Puri’s urgent accounts of Indian partition adapted by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood.”

BritishTheatre Guide: “This often-moving, well performed production is an important glimpse of an appalling situation inflicted by Britain at the end of its 400 years rule of India. Cyril Radcliffe, who had never been to India, was given just five weeks to carve the place up. There could have been no surprise at the panic and distress this caused. This is a history that should be taught in every school in Britain.”

Silence will play at the Donmar Warehouse  until the 17th September.

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