Silence Faces bring something completely different to the London scene. Follow Suit is an unusual mash-up of absurdist theatre combining elements of mine and clowning.
Four characters (or perhaps they are caricatures, or cartoons brought to life) face the audience behind classic, ikea style, office desks. They wear over sized, over shoulder-padded suits and each hold an exaggerated expression of horror and surprise on their faces.
For the next forty-five minutes we watch as the four characters named Right, Well, So and Okay move around the stage performing abstract office related tasks. They seem to go about their daily business in a way you might imagine a Picasso painting coming to life. Confused yet? I certainly was. Though fresh and innovative, I must confess that I have not the faintest clue what was happening throughout the majority of the production, but do not let that put you off. Far from being a negative, that intention is, unless I am very much mistaken, exactly what is meant to be felt. Other than the occasional exclamation of their own character’s name, the actors remain speechless throughout. This leaves it open for the audience to fathom their own interpretation as to the torment that might lie behind the mask of the everyday, overlooked office worker.
Jen Wakely, Megan Smyth, Cordelia Stevenson and Adam Deane play the office workers Right, Well, So and Okay. Though virtually silent they each hold their individual characters consistently, displaying any characteristics, status and insecurities through facial expression alone. It is a credit to each of the actors in turn that they are able to convey such complex levels of story telling through only one method of communication; mime.
On the ceiling in front of each of the actors hangs a light bulb that dims and shines, potentially displaying the various stages of panic and distress that an office worker conceals during their everyday routine. The whole thing is put together well and the concept is honestly fantastic. I am unsure if the production I saw last night was the finished product or a work in progress as there are element of both the message and movement synchronicity that could be clearer.
However, it is safe to say that I have never seen anything like it. It is political theatre done in a way I never imagined it could be done, and displayed just how thin the line between comedy and poignancy can be.
The production has the rough, unfinished feel about it, that devised pieces can sometimes have, but the company have landed on a strong and unique style of delivery that has the potential to go a long way. As an audience member and critic I am glad I have seen them during the beginning stages of their theatre making and am fascinated to see how they develop over the years. I will certainly be watching out for Silent Faces in the future.
Follow Suit is played at the Camden People’s Theatre until 2 November 2016. For more information see Camden People’s Theatre website.