Breaking the Silence

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

A howling railway carriage strewn with straw and rat dirt is home to Poliakoff's play of an upper-class family's struggle to find their place in post-imperialist Russia and beat the world to the invention of the talking movie.

The windows flicker with gunfire like film sliding over an unseen projector: but we are as blind as the characters to the future that is hurrying upon them or the hand that sways their fate.

In the first half, the playwright's preoccupations with memory and the child's eye view are strong to the fore.

Links to The Lost Prince leap to mind as a strongbox opens to reveal a pistol and a handful of diamonds.

The image flashes across the child's retina. It will not be forgotten. “Do you know what is important?” asks the father. “To achieve”, parrots the son. The second half sees the political conflict seeping into the family: the son is as quick to learn communism as he was to learn the dictates of his father's creative obsessions. Clash leads to betrayal and death stalks in.

John Vesty as the lead is intelligent and convincing, and Sally Dixon as his pent-up wife has good intensity. The first night dipped at the start, then went like steam. Don't miss this train.

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