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March 5, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Sound of Silence


Sound of Silence by Latvian theatre company New Riga has a hell of a pitch. A three-hour silent (well, dialogueless) exploration of the sixties, more specifically of the company’s parents. The soundtrack is entirely composed of the contemporary (to the 60s) work of Simon and Garfunkel.

The concept alone demands attention. You don’t even need to be a fan of Simon or Garfunkel to be intrigued as to just how and if they’re going to pull it off. Words have become such a crutch to so much of modern theatre that thinking of a theatre without them one cannot help but automatically head flick to the more boorish, bland and tired other extremes of most mime and some clowning. That is not Sound of Silence. It doesn’t contain language, beyond the music, because it doesn’t need it. It’s fine without it. It’s more than fine without it. It’s sublime.

In his note, director Alvis Hermanis talks about how he feels that one of the major challenges of the modern theatre is its obsession with violence, both literal and emotional. He says that the real challenges in the theatre are those related to making theatre around happy and harmonious theatre. With Sound of Silence he has more than succeeded. It is a show without any of the traditional tropes of dramatic conflict, but still manages to be a mostly gripping three hours and twenty minutes.


This is a show of images, of the truth of pictures and shapes. Memory is a realm of images and the emotions tied to them, the eye and the heart bound together. Sound of Silence lives very comfortably in a realm of reflection, it is a show very much looking back. It shows that the past tense can be as active as any other. But the images, oh, the images. If Sound of Silence is anything (and it is lots of things) it is a brilliant demonstration of the pure satisfaction that can roll over audiences, that can emanate from just the simplest, cleanest, most evocative tableau. It is never far from abstraction, or that favourite old theatric whipping-boy ‘dream logic’, but as a work it takes so much care creating its own grammar and rules that no audience will feel excluded or separate. In particular, the final movement of the first half contained some of the most profoundly wonderful theatrical moments I’ve ever experienced—books as birds, dances with telephone cords—simple ideas made enthralling flesh.

The fourteen-strong cast are universally excellent. The direction is clean and full of wonderful little tricks that keep a wonderful spark of magic through the proceedings.

One cannot discuss Sound of Silence without talking about the glorious sense of humour running through the whole work. It has a glowing sense of the joy of slapstick and the wonderful spine twist of the awkward while never being derivative or mawkish or simply cloying.

It is a rather a pinch too long at three and a third hours, but it wears its length well.

Sound of Silence is greatly indicative of the supreme level of talent that can grace our shores during the international festival of the arts. The point has been made elsewhere that work of such a level of skill is readily and regularly being produced in Wellington and across New Zealand that waiting for the Festival every two years seems somewhat reductive, and I couldn’t agree more. But that fact far from stops Sound of Silence and the Festival as a whole being such a treat when they do arrive.

Sound of Silence
by New Riga Theatre
Directed by Alvis Hermanis

At the TSB Bank Arena
26 Feb – 5 March 2010

Part of the 2010 International Festival.


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

Comments (5)

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  1. pamela says:

    Notes for Uther: intreged is intrigued, challanges is challenges (2x), demonstation has an r in it (though I like to think that demons have a hang out place called a demonstation), simplist is simplest, grammer is grammar, seperate is separate, inthralling is enthralling, fourteen strong could use a hyphen in this context, glorius is glorious…I like to read your thoughts Uther, I really do, but spellcheck, evil as it is, could help flatten the bits some of us trip over, distracting us from what your point is.

  2. Adam G says:

    It seems my attempts to discredit Uther and supplant his position in the Salient office are working. MuahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA


  3. smackdown says:

    huge feather in your cap, adam

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