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Thursday 2 June 2011

And I And Silence, by Naomi Wallace, Finborough Theatre, London, 4* out of 5

In the southern part of the 1950's US, Jamie and Dee are both 17 years old and in prison. The two girls, both from difficult underclass backgrounds form a friendship: Jamie is black, Dee is white. By making plans about how they will make an honest living in domestic service and help each other at the end of their nine year sentence they are able to sustain hope and belief in the future. The friendship even survives Dee's transfer to another prison three years into her sentence. What was possible in confines of a prison proves impossible when, having gained their freedom, the two young women are released into freedom. The friendship and love between Jamie and Dee holds, but the young women are stretched beyond breaking point by the cruel, hostile world they are faced with.

This understated play holds the audience's attention from beginning to the end, it is moving and poetic; its title is a line from an Emily Dickinson poem. What the play has to say about prison, friendship across racial boundaries and sexual harassment of women in domestic service still holds true across too many countries and cultures.

Beautiful performances from the four actresses, the older Jamie (Cat Simmons) and Dee (Sally Oliver) and their young selves (Cherrelle Skeete and Lauren Crace), confirm the Finborough Theatre as a premier London address for new plays of high quality. It was good to see the performance sold out with a predominantly young audience. This play and production deserves nothing less.

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