Leo Bill 'electrifying' in Donmar's Silence of the Sea

Jan 17, 2013

This beautifully played adaptation of the French resistance novel lingers in the memory

What you need to know
A stage adaptation of French wartime novel The Silence of the Sea has opened at the Donmar Trafalgar Studios. The novel by Jean Bruller (published under the pseudonym 'Vercors') became a symbol of resistance against German occupation, and was later made into a film by Jean Pierre Melville.

This stage version, adapted by playwright Anthony Weigh and directed by Simon Evans, tells the story of a young German soldier billeted to the home of an old man and his niece. Powerless to turn him away, they resist him with silence.

Finbar Lynch plays the old man and Simona Bitmaté appears as his niece. Leo Bill is the soldier. Part of the Donmar Trafalgar Season, until 2 February.

What the critics like
This is an "audacious" production of a tricky text, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. Impressively, Simona Bitmaté's silence becomes just "as eloquent as speech" while Leo Bill's supercilious soldier "crumbles credibly into vulnerability".

It's a sparse, skilfully acted adaptation of Vercors's text, says Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times. Director Simon Evans "diligently serves the less-is-more aesthetic of the piece".

It's "beautifully played", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Finbar Lynch is compelling, while Leo Bill is "electrifying". These 90 minutes "linger in the memory".

What they don't like
The play is well presented and acted, but Anthony Weigh's adaptation rarely sparks into theatrical life, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. The problem is technical: "voiceover narration is perfectly natural in cinema, but on stage it seems rather clunky".

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