Peter Gill’s Making Noise Quietly takes Robert Holman’s poetic triptych of plays and creates a delicate production directed with as subtle a hand as Holman offers to his writing, each play offering a seemingly simple but ultimately complicated glimpse of a time lived in the shadow of war.
In the first play of the evening, Being Friends, a conscientious objector and flamboyant writer meet on a hot summer day in 1944. As Doodlebugs fly overhead, the strangers find themselves debating the validity of war under the guise of a more innocent but loaded conversation about their very different lives.
Lost takes the action to 1982 when a naval lieutenant breaks the news of a colleague’s death in the Falklands to the late officer’s estranged mother. The last play of the evening, Making Noise Quietly, moves forward two years to the Black Forest in Germany. There an AWOL soldier and his disturbed stepson happen upon a Holocaust survivor who inexplicably becomes caught up in their complicated lives.
While each story bares no relation to the other, Holman weaves similar themes through all three, highlighting moments of humanity and truth in extraordinary circumstances. Each play has no discernible beginning or end, leaving the audience to witness occasionally inconsequential and other more strikingly important snippets in time. Each story also offers small glimpses of the kindness of strangers, suggesting that we are all connected in some way, whether we realise it or not.
The overwhelming theme throughout however is the freedom that being amongst strangers offers us and the boundaries it eradicates. In Being Friends farmworker Oliver is able to reveal his pacifist doubts to the liberating Eric – played excellently by a witty Matthew Tennyson – with the two eventually stripping naked to revel in the hot sun and their short, precious moment of freedom. Lost sees a mother confess her hatred towards a son she has always written off as “good riddance to bad rubbish”, convincing herself that hating someone must suggest you still love them enough to even care. Making Noise Quietly is perhaps the most explicit example of all with step-father Alan confiding in stranger Helene about a deep self-hatred that can only reveal itself through abuse, while she recounts her horrific experiences in a Nazi camp for what you feel is the first time.
Between each scene change – in which few changes need be made to Paul Wills’s minimalist green set – each character crosses the stage like a ghost encroaching on the stories told and yet to be told. This dream-like feeling encapsulates the atmosphere across all three plays in Gill’s production. There are no conclusions, no contrived agendas; just fleeting moments in time, snippets of poignancy and unexpected revelations.