Sunday 11th August 2019 at the Camden People’s Theatre.
As debuts go, 14 Karot Theatre Company’s is a corker. With The Silent Boy, this company offer up a glowing display of fun-filled physical storytelling against a poignant backdrop. It’s a production full of hilarity and delightful whimsy beautifully crafted by an energised cast gifted with great comic charm.
Following one young man’s struggle with a stammer, the show launches into silent movie sequences as the land of relief for our put-upon lead. We see the young boy navigate a puzzling babyhood and toddlerhood, scrape by in a bewildered early boyhood and really feel the pressure of daily struggles with communication in young teenhood. Sensitive to his woes, a parent gives the boy a glimpse of a world without the pressure of forming words, and suddenly from a classroom filled with anxiety and ridicule we’re swept up and away to parks and apartments for classic dates-gone-wrong schtick and the like.
Seeing our young man find such a perfect role model as Charlie Chaplain is just one of a good few poignant moments dotted throughout what is otherwise a lively, fun journey of fancy and escapism. With just a few everyday props used with creativity, worlds and supporting roles are conjured and vanished in a blink and a great selection of songs go a long way in creating the underlying tone of whimsy so beautifully delivered throughout.
Liam Walsh directs and shines very brightly as the lead. He’s a talented physical comic and shows great dynamism as he offers poignant scenes as equally well as those sparking hilarity. From struggling young boy to struggling young man, he gives an insightful look at the experience of living with a stammer, making the release the boy finds in the world of silent movies all the more affecting for the purpose it holds beyond a childish enjoyment of make-believe.
Lucy Blake impresses both as a comic presence in her own right and as Walsh’s partner in the whirlwind of dating in a world of absurd comedy. Blake’s comedy primarily lies in her wry facial expressions and uninhibited physicality, raising laughs as much with her reactions to the unfolding foolery all around as much as with the foolery she instigates. The pacy Walsh-Blake sequences are brilliantly done and despite a few rough edges here and there, it’s all very sharply done with pockets of very impressive precision timing.
Sam Cornforth is thoroughly hilarious and a real winning force, never failing to land big laughs with his superb comic timing and sense of relish in all he does. Particularly hilarious when taking the balloon date gag to its heights, he manages to raise cackles of laughter with a mere facial reaction.
This is a fantastic homage to the world of silent movies and by extension, the ability of the arts to release people from their day to day trials, providing a space in which they can feel a sense of belonging and comfort. It’s not entirely perfected and there are pockets of loose action and dips in momentum but as far as fringe theatre goes, this is top notch stuff full of ambitious creativity and blossoming skill. It’s a superb and creative debut from an excellent cast who showcase the best possibilities of fringe theatre with some real flair.
The Silent Boy plays Camden People’s Theatre until 12th August 2019 and you can (and should) get your tickets here or on the door.