Camden Fringe 2019: Sentenced to Silence at the Free Association’s Comedy Room
The wordy production by poet playwright Simon David – initially aptly titled A Busy Bit of Mouth – tells the story of Cara (Camilla Walters), born with Dyspnea, a condition affecting both her heart and lungs, who later struggles with relationships, two types of Bipolar disorders and ADHD.
David’s affected Shakespearean script does take a while to engage, and when it does, the lengthy wordiness makes one dip in and out, some parts more potent than others. It is no wonder the poet “loves language”, and Sentenced to Silence reflects that. Director Tian Brown-Sampson admits in a discussion after the show how she was initially confused by the writing, attempting to draw audiences in without a linear narrative, “only scratching the surface”, figuring it out as she went along, and this is quite apparent in the performance.
Cara’s parents (Caroline Short and Gareth Jones) are unaffectionate, further making it difficult for their daughter to have a normal physical relationship early on in her life. Brought into the world forcibly through clinical means shown at the beginning – through the use of a blue teddy bear on a small trolley – it is easy to understand and empathise with the protagonist as she traverses through life’s challenges. Discovering her mother’s infidelity, Cara is unable to divulge the information to her father, in a means to protect him, and struggles with the love for her mother and the burden of truth.
As aforementioned, the poetic script is not to everyone’s taste, and it is sometimes a struggle to remain engaged in the psychoanalytically heavy piece, with its elaborate language technique, which is not helped either by the stuffy pub theatre that for some bewildering reason only has air conditioning on for two of the production’s five acts; audiences sit facing each other fanning themselves drowsily. Supporting cast members Short, Jones and Naomi Willow, who portrays the doctor and later Cara’s love interest in a lift scene, are good, but it is Walters’s Cara and Jessie Baek – who stars as the nurse and in an online relationship – that stand out. Furthermore, lack of a score certainly makes the piece sometimes a task to sit through, alongside Cara’s neuroses, as viewers will spend a lot of time within the character’s mind. Inspired by Brit Marling’s drama The OA, Brown-Sampson incorporates the breathing body movements as a way to break up the whole, but the playwright’s long, unrelenting poem does need some editing for better clarification, as even he admits it’s “not an easy piece to sit through”, as it seeks to look at “how we respond to the catalysts that change us”.
Sentenced to Silence was at the Free Association’s Comedy Room from 1st until 3rd August 2019.
For further information about Camden Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.