- Flora Gosling
Review: Silent (Peacock Theatre)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
It’s fair to say that “Silent”, as an elevator pitch, would be unlikely to attract the average man walking, or lying, on the street. The one-man show, on the topic of homelessness, featuring a three-minute introduction of a man dancing in a blanket. It at once seems arty, preachy, and likely to come pre-packed with an audience to which few outside of background of seeing unusual theatre can gravitate. And yet, the show into which writer and performer Pat Kinevane has poured his heart and soul is, without a doubt in my mind, a work of outstanding theatre.
The story follows Kinevane’s character Tino McGoldrig’s Lear-esque tale of having and losing everything, including his sanity and desire to live. It’s told by an already insane McGoldrig, partially through stories he tells to individual audience members (after asking their permission in an almost embarrassing simpering manner) and partially through highly stylised scenes replicating the black and white movies of Rudolph Valentino (Tino’s namesake) and telling his brother’s story of loneliness, loss of sanity, and eventually loss of life. So, I usually avoid telling the story, as it usually gets in the way of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a production. However, this is the exception, for the simple reason that this show can never be anyone else’s. It is entirely Kinevane’s own masterpiece and so the boundaries of play and production and blended beyond distinction, in an intensely personal piece.
Seeing Kinevane’s skill and a performer and writer is the main attraction of the show. His performance was flawless. It was, dare I say it, an honour to see such a talented person do what he is so talented in. His timing, his strength, and the sheer creativity with which he used his body had me transfixed, and every footstep felt like it could crumble mountains in the world he created on stage. What’s more, his ability to show emotions, and such complex emotions at that, was incredible and engulfed you in whatever emotion was being portrayed. The emotions change quickly and without warning, so that by the end you feel like you have been dragged not only through the sleeping-bag strewn streets of Dublin but also through every emotion man is capable of feeling.
The narrative is as scatty as the performer, which in most performances I would condemn and brand with a scolding rod as confusing, but here it worked perfectly and flowed as Kinevane’s performance flowed. More to the point it made the audience feel like McGoldrig in his alcohol-fuelled and crazed state, and reflect on how a man could come to that. It is worth noting that I am the opposite to his character in every sense. I am young, I am female, I am financially secure, and I have experienced few tragedies in my life. Making me empathise with a character so far from my own experience is not a challenge that Kinevane can have anticipated, yet it is one he overcame. Every emotion was relatable and this was not merely through performance, either.
The writing, as I say, is more like speech in that it came directly from the mouth of the performer. The minimalist props showed the vulnerability, and even those things he had were crudely emphasised using glitter and shiny stickers. It made you consider the value of what little you have, and what it would be like to be without them, amplified by the set, if one could call it that, which was a black stage.
And yet, it did not achieve its goal. The inspiration for the production, which has been continually performed for the past seven years, was Kinevane’s experience of meeting homeless people in New York and being shocked at not only the conditions but the extent of homelessness. Add in a plot line of male mental health and homophobia, and it’s fair to assume that this show will have some strong messages about social issues that we can reflect on. But that is not what we are given. In spite of these themes, the performance becomes more of a character piece than anything else, especially when one considers that tickets are, understandably, priced at a usual rate, in turn attracting a bourgeois audience. One could go so far as to say that the money that went into the show, both in terms of tickets and production costs, could have helped a lot of people. I, however, am not that one. The ethical issues of taking such themes and turning them into an entertaining production are of little impact to me, and what I appreciate and what I think any audience member can appreciate is what the show was, not what it could have been.
Do not lament a production that does not exist. There are plenty of message-heavy productions to mirror society and, potentially, cause change. What Kinevane has created is a near-perfect character drama, and that is enough for me. That is enough to move anyone. Five stars.