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Loud applause for Silence cast

PUBLISHED: 17:08 30 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

A FINE cast worked hard to make Stephen Poliakoff s Breaking the Silence a truly attention-grabbing experience at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre last week, writes Mark Campbell. But the fact that the play - directed by Margaret Young - is exposition-heav

A FINE cast worked hard to make Stephen Poliakoff's Breaking the Silence a truly attention-grabbing experience at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre last week, writes Mark Campbell.

But the fact that the play - directed by Margaret Young - is exposition-heavy, overlong and revolves around a character with whom it is almost impossible to sympathise ultimately got the better of them.

It opens with self-styled aristocrat Nikolai Pesiakoff being made telephone inspector by the Commissar of Labour during the Bolshevik Revolution.

As the years go by, he and his family trundle across Russia in their specially appointed train, with Nikolai supposedly monitoring the erection of telephone poles (among other things). But really he's doing nothing of the kind. A secret inventor, he is obsessed with just one thing - putting sound onto film (hence the title). Their initially dour servant Polya, played with a mischievous twinkle by Sue Higginson, quickly transforms into the liveliest member of the group, while as Eugenia, Catherine Bateman's portrayal of a devoted wife emerging from her husband's shadow was beautifully observed. Sofya's bond with her apparently abstruse father was afforded great depth thanks to a charming performance by Radio 5 Live presenter Justine Greene. Mike Higginson played the jumped-up government official straight out of a 1950s Ealing comedy, with Peter Gray and Paul Harris following suit as two slightly incompetent guards. As Nikolai Pesiakoff, Phil Newton gave a muted performance that may have demonstrated the intellectual priorities of the man but risked alienating the audience through his dearth of charisma. The long, tall railway carriage designed by Colin Yardley seemed a little too big to properly convey the script's intended feeling of claustrophobia, and I would have liked some subtle sense of movement. But the wintry Russian landscape was admirably suggested by convincing snowfalls that made me feel chilly despite the warmth of the auditorium.

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