FRINGE REVIEW – Speechless, Sherman Cymru & Shared Experience


Various times until 29th August (Not Mondays)  @ Traverse

By Emily P

Based on the book The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace, Speechless unravels the world of the Gibbon sisters Jenifer and June, living from their early teens not speaking to anyone but each other in private. We meet the girls as adults who are serving time in Broadmoor and the narrative returns to them at 14 years old being sent from their high school to a special unit and then onto the dole and beyond to their criminal act.
The challenges which faced the creative team who brought this curiosity of a life to the stage must have been great: to explore main characters who do not speak to the three other protagonists – the mother, progressive teacher and sexual interest; to engender sympathy and investment from an audience in a relationship which is so introverted and exclusive. And yet this is just what the team of Shared Experience and last year’s fringe award winners Sherman Cymru have pulled off in this spectacularly engrossing tale of an intensely destructive and co-dependent relationship.
Using the soundtrack of the real-life twins’ own writing spoken by the two tremendous actors is a most striking method to entwine the drama with the source material. When the twins are in other company the tension of tangible boundary between them and the ‘outside’ world is almost painful to witness. When they are alone they are depicted as freely moving and speaking, if only in the childlike games or teenage fantasies which preoccupy them. The piece explores the ever intriguing subject of ‘twinness’ as well as these particular individual’s extreme reaction to the trauma of social exclusion and bullying.
What is most fascinating is the incredible manifestation of power play between the sisters – the uneasy indications of individual and differing desires and the bizarre mutual repression of the expression and fulfilment of them. Whilst the sameness of twins fascinates and disturbs us as a culture – it is not the ways in which these two forcefully unite against the world which is the triumph of this play but the tantalising glimpses of what separates them which captures the intellectual imagination.
This is a psychological drama which twins race and existential identity in a truly absorbing relationship study. Unsettling performances as well as subject matter will leave this in the consciousness for days after.

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