the friend online
11 July 2008

Another kind of silence

Reg Snowdon reports on further chances to see the play about Rachel Carson previously reviewed at the end of its run in London

In our early northern spring, Liz Rothschild – dramatist, actor and Quaker – brought her superb one-hander celebrating the life and work of Rachel Carson on tour to Tyneside. That was then, but the memory lingers on. For this theatre-goer it lingers with such power that I want to urge anyone who will listen not to miss this compelling and evocative piece of exemplary theatre. You can be sure of a spell-binding, enlightening and unforgettable evening.

Time flies when you are absorbed in the unknown – to some of us, at least – life of Rachel Carson, marine biologist and author of The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring, the woman who, as much as anyone, kick-started the environmental movement. Last year was the centenary of Carson's birth and the year in which Rothschild began touring her play. To begin with, the writer/actor simply wanted to create a one-woman show. Lots of names were considered and discarded, until a friend suggested Rachel Carson. Rothschild took down an unread copy of Silent Spring from her bookshelves and was immediately held captive by the beauty of the writing, its compelling truth and continued relevance to our world today.

It took the playwright four years to fully research her material, including a visit to the United States where she consulted unpublished letters between Rachel Carson and her friend, Dorothy Freeman. Rothschild says her play is not a history lesson nor an ecotract, but a love story. Through it, we experience the natural world as Carson did and are admitted to stories she never told in her lifetime.

On stage, we see the actor/writer speaking convincing American, every inch a conservatively-dressed civil servant of the early Sixties when Carson, near the end of her all-too-short life, testified about pesticides in the food chain before a Congressional Committee. This is the dramatic crux of the play. The action moves to and fro: back to Carson's childhood and earlier life and forward to our present debates about industrial pollution, stressing the precautionary principle: 'We need another beginning now. We cannot afford to wait for certainty.' Directed by Sue Mayo and designed by Sue Condie, the production supports the actor and her lines with an entrancing backdrop of shifting images of the natural world, ranging from microscopic cells to a display of disc-fruits on an honesty plant. To complement this, Joseph Young supplies a magical soundscape of wildlife recordings which ebb and flow like the sea. Carson's point is made – all life is interconnected.

Where and when can Friends catch-up with Another Kind of Silence? Well, in August devotees of the Edinburgh Fringe are in luck; and in September, the London area looks promising (see end note). Londoners have an especial treat in store. Impractical in Edinburgh, in London Liz Rothschild is reviving her touring tradition of a post-show discussion. Chaired by the actor/writer, a radically different woman from the quiet, controlled scientist she has just brought to life on the stage, the audience learn from her and each other about the extent and nature of current problems with toxic chemicals in everyday life. Rachel Carson's concerns are still around to trouble us in the twenty-first century. Among other things, Rothschild also provides a fascinating insight into the creative process of giving dramatic form to the rich material she has unearthed.

Go to see Another Kind of Silence and be convinced and inspired. Its author says that out of all her work has emerged another gift: she now hears birdsong far more vividly than before. Surely, that is a gift not one of us could refuse!

Another Kind of Silence: Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh, Venue 41, 1 to 24 August, but not 11 or 18. See Fringe programme for full details. London area: Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, 24 to 28 September; for additional venues see tour dates

The Friend provides fresh insight with news about and of interest to Quakers every week, in depth thought and reasoning through our comment, opinion and analysis pages, features that bring vibrancy to Quakerism, as well as reviews and arts pages that add to Quaker culture. Subscribe here.

Also by Reg Snowdon
Slow steps to sow new seeds the Friend 29 June 2007.

Reg Snowdon


This week's .pdf
In this week's online edition... rss edition

Meeting for Sufferings
Oliver Robertson
News round-up
Bad Pyrmont – a Meeting house in the heart of Germany
Ute Caspers
Challenging statements
Roger Sawkins
Anne Bancroft & Alison Leonard
Quakers and healing

Christian meditation
Anne Austin
Another kind of silence
Reg Snowdon
Jesus for Quakers
Michael Wright
Young people in the workplace: valued or cheap?
Alan Sealy

Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

download this issue

save this page

most recent comments:
Letters, Ala
Quaker approach to business under the spotlight, David Hitchin
Tackling the pay gap from both ends, anonymous poster
Some more equal than others?, anonymous poster
Climate Camp experience, Frances Laing
Climate Camp experience, Frances Laing
The centrality of worship, Andrew Hatton, Maldon LM, Essex
In the care of the Meeting?, chrissie hinde
Lockerbie grief and justice, Jennifer Barraclough
The centrality of worship, Peter Arnold
The top ten reasons (plus three) why bottled water is a blessing, Fee Berry
Letters, David Hitchin
Marriage and committed relationships, Fee Berry
George Fox and same gender partnership, Chris Bagley
Marriage and committed relationships, Chris Bagley
Meeting for meditation?, Barry
Meeting for ‘weorthscipe’?, Gerard Guiton
Report shows that all is not well in multicultural Britain, chrissie hinde
Johann Sebastian Bach and the Jews, Peter Arnold
Prisons: our growth industry, Peer Arnold

Save on your phone bills with:
the phone co-op - your voice counts