don’t say a word


Nursing a hangover this morning, I played some gentle music, lay gently on my bed and read a gentle paper – well, The Times was the paper, but today’s edition seemed fairly gentle.

The page that I got to which gently inspired me to write today was The Daily Universal Register page; which was in fact the original name for the newspaper when it was first published in 1785. If you’ve not read it before, it’s a nice little round up of current general knowledge – On this day…, Top Ten, Going out… vs. … Staying in, etc. However, the section which most stood out was The Last Word which quoted a Spanish proverb: “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

Apart from me thinking how last night would have been a better time to learn and use this proverb, as I sipped away a few hours of bubbly, red and beer (not mixed together) and got into many a slander about the world at large, it prompted me to think how, when creating theatre, we can learn so much from this. A vast amount of plays, nowadays, are stuffed full of language when it should really be heading in the opposite direction. I’m not saying that we should all be manufacturing The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, but I think that if the silence is there, it should be there for a reason. The audience reads so much upon the stage and that includes what’s not being said.

I know this is as clear as mud at the moment, so let me give you an example, although you may slap me on the wrist, because it is screen, where you are pretty much told what you can look at, and not stage but nevertheless – Lost in Translation is crammed with silences which communicates an unbelievable amount. The films is just as much about what is not being said as what is being said and this is the reason why I love it so much and why I feel it was so successful. It didn’t patronise the audience but made them work to fill in the blanks where each person could create their own mini episodes.

This is what theatre should be heading for and striving to achieve. The audience can be told a huge amount through the silences. Theatre needs to be created with precision and necessity and so words need to be stripped bare until this creation is achieved.

So, to round that all up: “Shut yer face and eat your humble pie.”


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