And I And Silence
Corpus Playroom, Tues 11th- Sat 15th June, 7pm
Rosie Skan’s production of And I And Silence skilfully evokes empathy from the audience for the characters while blurring the line between make-believe and reality. Despite covering big-hit topics- sexual abuse, racism, exploitation, class and sexuality- the play does not feel forced. It revolves around the development of an unlikely relationship between a black girl, Jamie, and a white girl, Dee, in prison as teenagers.
The play moves backwards and forwards between the early development of their friendship in prison and their difficulties ‘outside’ as they attempt to hold-down a good job. The play has been cast extremely well; unusually for student theatre, there seems a believable age gap between the early Jamie and Dee (Isabel Adomakoh-Young and Megan Henson) and their later counterparts (Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan and Rosie Cross). The changes in setting were, however, less clearly demarcated; the only change to the wire caging of the set seemed to be in lowering a sink/ shelf between each time-change. Admittedly this did make the later experiences of the pair seem as caged-in as their experiences in prison, but I feel that the set could have been used in a more interesting way in order to make it easier for the audience to understand the significance of the change of scene. The characters suggest, counter-intuitively, that prison was for them often a place of childish freedom, while their later lives as ‘free people’ were in fact more restricted by hunger, racism and sexual abuse. The sink/ shelf change did little to reinforce this idea and, although the change in lighting was interesting, I remained confused about whether the later Jamie and Dee were in prison or not for a large part of the play.
Perhaps the strongest part of the play was the development of the ideas of sexuality and servitude. Throughout the play Jamie emphasises the idea that ‘there’s a line’- that they must both be clear about what is appropriate for their employers at the houses they clean to do- and must ‘run’ if that line is crossed. Yet there is an unclear line between the acting out of these master-servant scenes between Jamie and Dee and their real feelings for each other. There are strong suggestions throughout the play of sexual tension between them, and it becomes clearer towards the end that servitude and sexuality cannot be separated for them. In the outside world Dee cannot stand the fact that when they are seen together people assume Jamie is her servant, and neither can bear the thought that the other may have broken their principles and granted their masters sexual favours in order to get food on the table. The climactic last scene juxtaposes the horror of their situation with the beauty of their descriptions of each other as like ‘a piece of morning’ or ‘a spill of water’. The performers’ interactions with each other were especially strong, allowing the complexity of their relationship to be both believable and challenging to the audience. Overall this was a really excellent and, at some points terrifying, performance.