To Silence

The Street Theatre. 16 February 2012

By Subhash Jaireth.

'Kabir' - Directed by Caroline Stacey. 'Chekhova' - Directed by Camilla Blunden

Written by Canberra poet, Subhash Jaireth, this intense production is a lament on the lives of two very different historical figures: Kabir, the 14th Century mystic poet from India, and Maria Pavlovna Chekhova, the sister of the famous Russian writer, Anton Chekhov.

Told through monologue, the concept is quite convoluted, with the stories conceived “as fictional autobiographies in which biographical facts refract through a series of imagined events”. It’s not just the play’s blurb that’s difficult to grasp.

While both characters have profoundly interesting backgrounds, the scripts from both acts were quite cryptic and inaccessible for those theatre-goers without a knowledge of their respective histories.

It would have been a much more rewarding and educational experience had the writer taken the complexity of both stories down a notch, and given a little more context before launching head-first into the troubled psyches of Kabir and Chekhova.

And while the two figures were connected in this production by the commonality of having little left but their fading memories and the comfort of descending into the silence of death, the stark contrast between them gave To Silence a sense of discord – of lacking an overall big picture that links them somehow.

While there are some very engaging moments of dialogue to be found, both performances were agonisingly long-winded. It would have been much more enjoyable to see a truncated version that really gripped the audience’s attention, instead of drawing out the beautifully written but indulgent script.

In saying that, both roles in To Silence were performed skilfully by local actors Raoul Craemer (Kabir) and Naone Carrel, who took complete ownership of their characters and are to be applauded for sailing through their lines without so much as a blip.

The subtle sound and creative use of lighting were also of note, creating an effective ambience and contrast between the two very physically different worlds – the vibrancy of India and the sombre tone of Communist Russia.

Overall I’d say there’s a lot of gold here for the history and/or poetry buffs, or for anyone feeling melancholic and wanting a fix of deep reflection. Otherwise, it’s just frustratingly introspective.

Deborah Hawke