In a world where a law is introduced to enforce each person a word limit of 140 a day, communication is a precious commodity. When words become currency, where do you choose to spend them?
We follow couple, Bernadette (Jemima Murphy) and Oliver (Charlie Suff), who jump between pre and post “Quietude Bill”. Hamish Clayton’s direction artfully navigates between these timelines through slick movement choreography, teamed with mood lighting from Gregory Jordan. We watch Bernadette and Oliver build their relationship on a foundation with and without words. Their connection is believable, engaging and at times sickly-sweet. What is most admirable about this play, however, is the intense detail around what a real relationship is like; it’s messy, emotional and with words or not, communication can be the most difficult part.
Suff’s Oliver helps break up the drama with moments of humour; he has a rare ability to crack a joke and then break down, or start a passionate speech about the hush law protests. In contrast, Murphy’s Bernadette is much more emotionally suppressed, truly showcasing their differences, which ultimately leads to an explosive argument before the hush law sets in. From then, words become a personal attack – what happens if you haven’t saved enough words for your loved one at the end of the day?
Ultimately, though, it’s about the political fight and impending feeling that the lower classes are losing their free speech while the rich continue their wastefulness. As a high-earning lawyer, Bernadette bitterly makes this point, wasting her final five words of the day: “Lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons”.
It’s safe to say that Sam Steiner’s dystopian tale sits quite comfortably in our current Brexit climate, with free speech and protest more important than ever. Nevertheless, with a concept based around using less words, the play could have done with a lot more editing. At times the content dragged and some scenes felt unnecessary. There were many “perfect ending” moments that would have had a bigger impact, however, the piece ended with a fizzle.
Yet, overall, the performances and direction are strong, and the concept as a whole is fascinating. But, please cut it to an hour – tops.