Ça Va [by Matt Baker]
Other than its professed Hitchcockian style and some season-orientated pensive posters, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Silo’s production of Amy Herzog’s Belleville other than a psychological relationship thriller. Hitchcock, however, was the undisputed master of suspense. Red herrings are not MacGuffins, and where Hitchcock would show, Herzog tells. There are, of course, moments of drawn-out silence in Oliver Driver’s direction, where the drama occasionally balances on a knife’s edge, but otherwise these characters spend a lot of time talking. Herzog has said that “the play is about, among other things, this [romantic idea] being totally deconstructed and savaged for [Abby],” and while said deconstruction does occur, its lack of sustained progression becomes rather boring.
Matt Whelan has an incredibly difficult character arc, and resorts to being quite showy to keep the audience up to speed with his psychological journey due to the lack of roundedness in the writing. His focus on his fellow actors, however, is diligent. Sophie Henderson enters the stage with an entire emotional character history in tow and works her way through every beat, never letting Whelan or the audience off the hook. Tawanda Manyimo and Karima Madut both incorporate an authentic Parisian rhythm into their actions, although Manyimo’s shoulder tension does result in incomplete gestures. Madut portrays the pragmatism of a landlord’s wife without ever becoming shrewish, but can afford to push it even further.
John Verryt’s set design provides an excellent interior model of Belleville’s maze of narrow, graffiti covered streets, and incites the sense of psychic and mental remoteness of the city and Abby respectively. Thomas Press’ sound design, a theatrical element often over-when-not-under-utilised, is prominent for all the right reasons, from its sense of foreboding to its haunting accentuations of the on-stage action. Sean Lynch’s lighting design draws us in to the intimacy, but short changes by not continuing with its highly stylised moments once the drama of the play changes direction. Costumes by Charlotte Rust serve the script dutifully and reflect the characters’ changes in mental comfortableness.
While the issues Herzog addresses are not unrecognisable, the forced extremity of the circumstances, and convoluted internal actions for and decisions made by the characters’ make them difficult to relate to. There is no question that the script takes bold choices and Herzog successfully leads the audience down the garden path, but, ultimately, the risks don’t pay off cathartically. In saying that, Belleville certainly coincides with Silo’s contemporary modus operandi and seemed to appeal to the opening night crowd.
Belleville is presented by Silo and runs until September 20. For details see Silo Theatre.