Yesterday I saw two Fringe Festival shows. Both of them, as it turned out, were wordless (though not silent). Both were fabulous. And both got me thinking about communication.
LOON is the story of a lonely man who falls in love with the moon. (As one might imagine, the relationship is doomed.) It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching and incredibly moving – storytelling at its finest and simplest. The show is carried by a single performer wearing a huge, cartoon-like and incredibly expressive mask. The performer’s body language was so finely-tuned, I swore the character’s forlorn face was changing.
The Last Man on Earth plays out like a black and white silent film, featuring four characters: a hapless fellow in a pork pie hat, a pie maker with whom he is smitten, the Devil, and a bat that does the Devil’s bidding. It’s a universal story of innocence vs. evil, told with humour, elegance and artistry. All four actors were engaging and incredibly expressive physically.
We know that words have huge command over us: they can hurt, heal, empower and disempower. We rely on them to connect with others, to express ourselves and share information.
But what happens when we turn the words off, like in these two plays? We become more attentive to the language that can’t be heard – action, expression, posture. We’re able to “listen” and “speak” in a whole new way, and we reenter the world of words with a mindset of quiet contemplation. Words become irritating; we start to read the silent stories in the people around us.
Spending an hour without words is an oasis in a day otherwise crammed with media stories, texts, overhead conversation and idle chatter. I highly recommend it – whether you check out either of these shows (which I also heartily endorse) or not.