Directed by Deborah Bruce, "MAKING NOISE QUIETLY" is the first of four productions that the Company will be performing at the Whitehall Theatre and one can only hope that the other three are a lot better than this play which I thought was badly written and badly acted.
Written by Robert Holman, it was first produced in 1986. It is a trilogy of short plays that depicts chance meetings between strangers against the backdrop of war. The plays are an attempt to show the effects of war on those that are not directly involved in the fighting.
The first play, lasting 30 minutes, is called "BEING FRIENDS". It is set in 1944 and concerns two young men who meet in a Kent meadow. 'Oliver', is a farmer and conscientious objector and 'Eric' is an artist, who is unable to go to war due to a spinal injury. As bombs drop around them they discuss their lives and their hopes for the future. 'Eric' is a homosexual and 'Oliver' is intrigued by this and asks various questions like, "How many Homosexuals do you know?" They discuss the war and the atrocities that are happening, which causes a dilemma for 'Oliver', who is now deciding whether to put aside his principles and go out and fight. This first play is dreadful, lacking in any creative writing or impact. I don't like criticising actors but, JOHN LLOYD FILLINGHAM is totally inapt in the part, lacking in any substance. He is unconvincing playing a man torn between his religious beliefs and his feeling the need to do something to help the people suffering in the war. PETER HANLY as 'Eric' is adequate, but to be fair on both men this is not a script that any of them could realistically get their teeth into because it is very lightweight. Writers have tackled these subjects and dilemmas many times, unfortunately this effort is very mediocre.
So, what about the second play called "LOST"? Again we are told a familiar story. This time set in 1982, 'May Appleton', receives a visit from a navy officer who has come to inform her that her son has died during the conflict in The Falklands War. We discover that she has had no contact with her son for 5 years. 'May', while upset with his death, is also angry that her son never kept in touch. The officer, 'Geoffrey', reveals what had been happening in her son's life these past few years, which comes as a surprise to her. Again we are presented with a lightweight story that is lacking in any kind of atmosphere, tension or emotion. Poor ELEANOR BRON as 'May' does her best to bring some spark to the play, but fails. PETER HANLY as 'Geoffrey, again puts in a competent performance. This play, lasting only 20 minutes, is better than the first, but then that's no great achievement!
After the interval, the second act is taken up with the third and final story called "MAKING NOISE QUIETLY" and with this act lasting nearly an hour I was praying that the evening would finally come alive. Alas it was not to be. It continued in the same vein as the others. This play is set in 1986, in the Black Forest. It concerns a German businesswoman called 'Helene', who takes into her home a fugitive British soldier called 'Alan' and his disturbed 10-year-old stepson. Helene is a Holocaust survivor and tells her story to 'Alan'. 'Alan' himself was given 3 months leave from the army to sort out his family problems, but this he has not done. He is now absent without leave still trying to sort out his life and that of his stepson, whom he loves, yet is violent towards! His stepson has psychological problems and will not talk and so 'Alan' asks 'Helene' for help, which she does, in an almost brutal fashion. This story had more depth to it than the others did, but there is no mistaking the fact that it is a predictable story. The acting again left a lot to be desired. Poor JOHN LLOYD FILLINGHAM must have been having a pretty bad night because I could not connect with him at all. He looked very uncomfortable in this role as he did in the first play. ELEANOR BRON gives a better performance, and as for the screaming kid, no comment!!
I have to say this is one of the worst productions I have seen on the West End. It really pains me to write a scathing review like this. I know a lot of work and dedication goes into these plays. But I feel duty bound to my readers to tell it the way I saw it. It was like watching an amateur school play written by the pupils!
Well I may not have liked this play, but the popular press sure did! BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of the TIMES says, "Holman's distinctive qualities - that spare richness, that astringent abundance - leave us with drama quietly to relish." NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, " You are left flexing the muscles of your mind as you try to decide just what links or contrasts there are in these three inscrutable, intriguing plays." PETER HEPPLE of THE STAGE says, "Oxford Stage Company has got off to a good start at the Whitehall Theatre with these three short plays." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "A thought-provoking evening and a welcome start to Oxford Stage Company's bold attempt to make this theatre a venue for serious drama. "
Although I cannot recommend this play, it has to be said that it has received positive reviews from the popular press on its tour, and in London. So you never know, maybe it was me who was having a bad night. I doubt it though!!