Piece of Silk examines the narratives that inform our lives and the stories that we tell others, and ourselves. Reflecting on story-telling as a means of making sense of our world, from childhood tales recounted by our parents to the enduring legends that shape our perception, this play explores the way in which taking control of that narrative can empower the story-teller.
The play’s chorus, spoken by Billy (Jack Bence), invites the audience to view this production as layer upon layer of narrative which extends from the personal out into the streets. In the striking contrast between casual conversation and stylised story-telling the familiar quickly becomes strange.
Shaz (Tanya Vital) is creative and passionate, recording her stories on Vimeo with the help of her sister, Dunya (Samantha Shellie). These fictions are an imaginative escape however they are also important in the sisters’ daily lives. Shaz’s stories help Dunya to manage her aspergers and allow both sisters to reconstruct their reality.
The entrance of half-brother, Sami (Devesh Patel), into the sisters’ lives brings with it both promise and risk. He is an unknown quantity, family, and yet, distinctly different. Sami is caught between conflicting worlds, the traditional Indian culture of his father and the diversity of his sisters’ lives in England. Patel masterfully portrays the tensions within this complex character fighting to keep a tight hold on what he understands of the world. Sami must confront difficult questions about his own identity when he is left to take care of his sisters while their mother (Heather Coombs) is away.
Piece of Silk draws on the chilling stories of women survivors of domestic violence to reveal the invisible worlds of control and abuse that can lie just beneath the surface of a seemingly calm home. Shaz’s stories chart her journey in responding to the difficulties of her relationship with her half-brother. These stories take on ominous significance as her reality becomes more difficult to understand than her fiction. Through her tales Shaz demonstrates her deep empathy for others. Vital gracefully depicts an intelligent, independent woman struggling to hold together her family and friends and to comprehend the violence of the situation in which she finds herself. Piece of Silk reflects upon the ways in which we listen and what we don’t hear, speak and yet fail to communicate, and the ways in which we construct and support those around us.
Weaving together aspects of lyrical myth, spoken word poetry and oral traditions, this multimedia production is invigorating and startling to experience. The tension of the play winds tightly into a climactic, cathartic, final scene. The light of this intimate stage at the Hope Theatre falls on the cast and the audience alike, drawing spectators into the action and encouraging us to reflect upon our role as witnesses. There is no room in this production to distance oneself from the story. The power of this production lies in its exposure of the ‘other’ as a reflection of ourselves, forcing every one of us to confront the stories that make up our own identities.
Piece of Silk is a beautiful, complex and compassionate portrayal of resilience and resourcefulness in the face of domestic violence and its repercussions in the community. Buckman’s writing provides no easy paths out of the narratives in which we become entangled. Instead of simplistic condemnation, Piece of Silk encourages us to reflect upon the power of words to both deceive us and inspire us to greater tolerance, breaking the cycles of fear and domination which perpetuate violence.
- By Jennie Buckman
- Director: Tania Azevedo
- Cast includes: Jack Bence, Tanya Vital, Samantha Shellie, Devesh Patel, Heather Coombs
- The Hope Theatre, London
- Until 2 July 2016
- Review by Hannah Connell
- 18 June 2016