Fringe stalwarts Teatr Biuro Podrozy are back again, with their usual hallmark of outdoor spectacle on a vast scale. In Silence, they explore the catastrophic consequences of war and human displacement. Featuring fire, haunting music and performers on stilts, the production takes a profound look at the dehumanising effects of mass migration.
A dramatic and alarming opening sets the tone of this visually stunning performance. Broadly speaking, the heavily stylised plot follows the difficulties faced by a group of refugees. They suffer hunger, death, and abuse from manic soldiers who repeatedly terrorise them on motorbikes.
Yet, amongst the carnage there's some joy – albeit short-lived as they are periodically almost literally crushed by giant figures in black. Death too makes an appearance, although in a much more sympathetic guise. Throughout there's eerie music, which hints at an eastern setting but this is kept deliberately vague.
The gigantic outdoor staging gives a unique scale to this ambitious production, and the result is spectacular, creating an at-times terrifying atmosphere. Likewise, the combination of pyrotechnics, stilt walkers and motorbikes seems like the stuff of health and safety nightmares. Overall, the effect is memorable, and despite only few words in the entire hour allows the audience to sympathise with the refugees' plight.
Unsurprisingly, it can sometimes be unclear what is happening on stage. But I feel that cues exist for the audience to understand enough of Silence for it to still have a strong impact. That said, this approach may not suit everyone; some parts do become a little repetitive, with echoes of Mad Max, and there isn't much of a plot. You'll also be stood for the duration, or sat on the pavement (folding chairs are available for those with particular accessibility needs).
Silence is a powerful piece, which will have you thinking about its message for hours after. The technical skills are impressive and unlike anything else you're likely to see in the Fringe. Whilst certainly not for the jumpy, the atmosphere created makes for a thoroughly interesting experience.