The final Donmar season, showcasing the work of its Resident Assistant Directors, comes to a sombre, atmospheric end with Anthony Weigh’s adaptation of the subversive 1942 novella, written during German occupation by French writer and illustrator Jean Bruller under the pseudonym Vercors.
It’s not just the sea that doesn’t speak.
The two French protagonists – an old man and the niece he took in when his brother, a member of the Resistance, had to flee for his life – greet Werner, the unwanted “house guest” billeted in their coastal home, with a relentless, stony silence despite the garrulous young officer’s friendly overtures.
But Simon Evans’ subtly conceived production (which almost does away with props) is awash with other sounds – doors closing, the changing weather, lapping waves, the lilt of music played on the piano from which the silent young woman (a wary, resentful Simona Bitmaté) would not be parted, and, most of all, the overhead footsteps of Werner, occupying the room upstairs.
The performances are faultless.
Finbar Lynch is a master at delivering compelling monologues addressed to the audience, and he excels again here as the reclusive loner using silence as the only mode of resistance.
And, Leo Bill’s upper-class, smartly-suited Werner, a musician in another pre-war life, drastically charts the change from eager naivety to horror when the cruelty of his Nazi compatriots is shamelessly exposed on leave in Paris.
Trafalgar Studios (2)
Whitehall, SW1A 2DY
Tube | Charing Cross
Until 2nd February
Photo: Simon Kane