An area behind the Edinburgh International Conference Centre has been cordoned off in order for Polish theatre company Teatr Biuro Podróż to present their epic production Silence. The show is a companion piece to Carmen Funebre, which is also being presented at the venue in a limited run.
Silence begins with a loud crashing sound effect. The audience see a large white sheet hung over a cube like object that is is situated towards the back of the massive outdoors performance space. The sheet is pulled back and we see a bus which has crashed. Civilians are hanging from the open windows and look close to death. They escape the vehicle and and remove children from the wreckage. These children are presented as life sized dolls and are manipulated like puppets. Throughout the show the civilians and puppets are tormented by soldiers and men on stilts, who look like imposing gladiators. At times these oppressors hold large burning wheels that they push around the space and torment the refugees. This terror is heighten with a thumping heavy metal soundtrack that makes the scene even more dark and ferocious. The performance space is used to its fullest. Motorbikes are also introduced which cycle around the perimeter and soldiers enter the space and look to control the refugees. Carmen Funebre investigated the Bosnian crisis and Silence looks at the refugee crisis. Here dreams of escaping war are dashed and danger is presented in many forms.
Above the bus is a sign stating ‘This City Has Ten Million Souls’. It is a telling piece of text that points to the amount of destruction and pain that we are witnessing. The show truly is epic in style. With the combination of puppetry, fire, smoke, street performance and circus, Silence grips the viewer and causes the audience to stand back in awe at the spectacle. It feels impossible not to admire the ambition and scope of the show. Teatr Biuro Podróż use circus techniques, not just to entertain, but to provoke and ask questions. They show the torment and hurt of the refugee crisis in an accessible and passionate way. The themes are delivered with heart and they instill warmth and character into the puppet children. We care about their plight and witness the tragedy of war in an epic fashion.