Silent Disco

Silent Disco
By Lachlan Philpott. Griffin Theatre / ATYP/ HotHouse Theatre. SBW Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst (NSW). April 28 – June 4, 2011.

I just love it when I’m blown away by a piece of new Australian theatre, as I was by Silent Disco.

Was it identification (as an ex-teacher), with a teacher and her students in a testing school?

Perhaps, though I’m betting Silent Disco will not only resonate with teachers, but will really engage younger audiences.

My thoughts were drawn back to an earlier school-themed Griffin hit, Us Or Them, which so many teachers and their students shared in the same venue and beyond in 1984.

I felt I knew the troubled, talented teenage girl at the heart of Silent Disco; had taught her more than once.

Sophie Hennser and Meyne Wyatt ensure the high stakes of a tortuous, urgent story of teenage love and sexuality. Hennser is compelling as the fiesty, up-front, yet vulnerable girl, Tamara, while Wyatt genuinely lands the contrasting quiet insecurity of the boy, Squid.

Camilla Ah Kin plays the teacher as though she has walked a mile (and more) in my shoes and those of my former colleagues, and delivers classroom dialogue with an uncanny ring of truth. She also switches effortlessly between other supporting roles. Kirk Page effectively portrays and delineates the adult male supporting roles.

Lachlan Philpott’s 2009 Griffin Award winning play nails characters, situations and genuine issues with aching accuracy, and relieving wit. There’s an intense lyricism to his writing, balanced by the vital rawness, muscle and sensitivity of Lee Lewis’s direction, rich in truth and texture.

While there’s plenty of teenage angst, the prevailing mood that emerges is cautiously optimistic.

Silent Disco is yet another terrific Australian play incubated by Griffin at that fertile cradle of new Australian work, the SBW Stables Theatre.

Neil Litchfield 

Image: Meyne Wyatt and Sophie Hensser. Photographer: Alex Vaughan

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