The Silence Came, by Duncan Maurice, is Sydney’s latest immersive theatre experience, and it slinks between voyeuristic and confronting, banal and shocking, and intimate and public as you follow it through the house.
You arrive at the old, three-storey house in Darlinghurst, and are welcomed by Timothy, who shows you the room that’s available and tells you the price of rent. Have a look around the house, he urges, and applications will be taken upstairs if you’re interested.
It’s like six smaller plays running simultaneously in separate rooms, with only Timothy running between rooms collecting rent to link them. In the basement is the young couple, deeply in love but arguing about money and lies. Next to them is the Argentinian couple pouring every dollar they have into The Australian Dream, feeling frustrated and lied to. Upstairs are the two women – in love, out of love, bickering, threatening to leave. Down the hall are the mentally unstable mother and the loving son desperately trying to protect her from herself. Across from them is the married couple who have suddenly come into some money – they have dresses and plane tickets and sudden hope. Upstairs, three people discuss business – the rent, Timothy’s job, the spreadsheet for tomorrow.
You wander between the rooms, watching scenes of lives in a Sydney sharehouse and feeling uncomfortably like a voyeur. The actors mostly ignore you, though occasionally they’ll ask you to pass them something, or for your opinion and having that fourth wall stripped away is a bizarre feeling.
Suddenly, the mood changes. The rent money has gone, Timothy is panicking and accusing everyone of having taken it. The different storylines merge as tempers flare and accusations fly. Now you’re a member of the cast as much as the actors and you have to help choose what happens next.
This piece is so far beyond traditional theatre that when you leave at the end, you’ll feel shaken, bewildered, and maybe angry. And theatre that makes you feel this strongly is the best kind of theatre.
The Silence Came is at The Commons, 32 Burton Street on Monday May 5, 12, 19 and 26.