The Silence and the Noise, Vault Festival (Digital Theatre) – Review

Written by Tom Powell, and directed by Elle While and Rachel Lambert, The Silence and the Noise is a digital play that showcases the best traits of film and theatre. Focusing on two teenagers whose polarised relationship is complex and symbiotic, the audience traces the evolution of their thorny relationship from intial aggression and mistrust to an unconventional friendship.

For the audience, the reason for the initial tension is not immediately apparent, but as the characters’ respective backstories are fleshed out, we begin to fully understand the entrenched opinions that each person holds.

Daisy a.k.a. ‘Daize’ (Rachelle Diedericks) is a schoolgirl who spends most of her time outside, in the vicinity of her home. The arrival of Ben (William Robinson) – a teenager of a similar age – prompts an angry response from Daize, as he is ‘trespassing’ on her property. However, despite Daisy’s thorny demeanour, Ben makes repeat visits to the property ‘on business’ – though the nature of this is the reason for her ‘apprehension’…

I have to admit that as the story unfolded, I admired the creative team for having the temerity to tackle such a weighty, emotionally turbulent narrative. Imagine being a teenager and seeing your mother relapsing into a former drug habit, because of a persistent presence of a dealer. Then imagine having that dealer moving in with your mother, along with his ‘ne’er-do-well’ acquaintances. What would you be thinking, feeling… your sense of powerlessness to make things better, plus the anger… Then imagine being confronted by one of the dealer’s ‘runners’, who is bringing more drugs for the dealer and more importantly, your mother…

Through Ben’s conversations, we see his ‘justification’ to Daize about his ‘career’ as a runner, as well as what he tells himself. But as the story progresses, Ben – who isn’t without feelings or empathy – is forced to face the awful truth that his actions are contributing to the degradation and ailing health of Daisy’s mother. The play also obliquely puts a question to the audience. If you had a job where you earned lots of money, but the indirect consquence of your actions left people’s lives ruined, would you really want to know? Would you have the moral fortitude to ‘walk away’ from your ‘vocation’?

While the play deals with weighty issues, it’s not laid on ‘thick and fast’ from the beginning. Instead, the audience is slowly introduced to the relevant facts and backstories, once it has built a rapport with the characters.

Directors Lambert and While are able to coax genuine warmth between the characters, as well as deftly keeping the emotions in check, adopting a ‘less is more’ approach. When the bubbling emotions beneath the surface finally ‘break through’, their measured delivery hints at an emotional pain, despair and regret than can never be expressed verbally.

In a tale such as this, it’s impossible for the protagonists and the unseen ancillary characters to carry on indefinitely. Physically or emotionally, something has to give…

© Michael Davis 2023

The Silence and the Noise is a Pentabus Theatre and Rural Media co-production. It premiered at the Vault Festival on 19th February and was available online.

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