To begin the show, the audience are guided through to the Clare Studio, the Young Vic’s smaller space. The space has a semi-circle of chairs facing away from each other and toward individual television sets, each paired with a headset that we are instructed to put on. It is a shared experience individualised by the sound directly entering our eardrums and not the space itself. Instead of one big projection for all to see, we are isolated and made to watch the piece independently. For most of us, this is how we hear of global matters, and this is how we would have heard and do continue to hear about the ongoing crisis in Syria that has plagued citizens there for over four years.
Caroline Williams’ Now Is The Time To Say Nothing wants to keep your attention sharp. Developed with the Young Vic Taking Part company, the piece attempts to humanise the crisis in Syria and make it personal to those trying to understand what is happening there through a screen. They create a narrative that the audience can identify with, adopting the second person narrative to directly lock us into the journey.
In this piece, we get to know one Syrian girl in particular, who through the use of a camera, illuminates part of her world for us to understand. A magical moment occurs when it snows in Syria – finally the streets are quiet and citizens may escape their makeshift homes and make to the streets for a brief moment of peace.
Throughout the 45 minute screening, there are pauses in the narrative where the audience is instructed to do simple tasks, which prevent anyone becoming complacent whilst watching. We are constantly reminded as to why we are here, without it ever becoming preachy. In one moment of the production, we are asked to step away from our sets and join together in a circle, and acknowledge one another. Stepping away from the monitor in this moment has the capacity to make you feel strangely vulnerable – at no point does Now Is The Time To Say Nothing want you to slump in your chair and simply watch.
The simple process of first isolating each audience member and delegating a monitor to us, then joining us all together is surprisingly powerful. Now Is The Time To Say Nothing is a moving new work that has the power to remain on your mind for some time after you leave the space. It has the potential to spark conversations with the strangers who watch the piece with you in the room, much like its ability to connect us with a girl living a life so different from our own.
Now Is The Time To Say Nothing is playing at the Young Vic until 18 July, for four sessions per day at no cost. For tickets and for further information, see the Young Vic website. Photo by the Young Vic.