Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper


SILENCE isn’t always golden in Annie George and Flore Gardner’s multi-media meditation on the power of finding one’s voice and standing up to those who would rather shut women up. With writer and performer George and visual artist Gardner both onstage throughout Saffy Setohy’s production, the pair join forces to reclaim their stories in a way that gives them power and strength enough to transform personal rites of passage into something greater.

While George unravels her tale in a tumble of shared experience, Gardner doesn’t say a word, preferring to let her pictures do the talking, both live and in animated form. As her swirl of images form an evocative backdrop, they do more than merely illustrate the story, but expand on it with an abstract urgency that turns it into a visual invocation of contemporary legend.

This becomes even more resonant as George and Gardner dovetail their own experiences with the tale of Philomela, the mythological princess of Athens. In Ovid’s telling of her story in Metamorphoses, Philomela has her tongue cut out after being raped by Tereus, the king of Thrace. She is later transformed by the gods into a nightingale, the female variety of which notably doesn’t sing.

Given even greater depth by Niroshina Thambar’s score, which similarly melds the ancient and modern, George and Gardner’s work becomes a brooding collage of absorbed wisdom across the ages. There’s an everydayness to things too that suggests what’s being laid bare is far more universal than is usually acknowledged, usually for all the reasons the play points to. The end result for George and Gardner – and for Philomela too come to that – is a quasi-ritualistic form of purging that finds strength in numbers before it takes flight.