Hush tells the story of Harlem (Graeme Somerville) and his young daughter Lily (Vivien Endicott-Douglas). Lily is suffering from night terrors and her worried father is progressively dragged further into her confused and disjointed world as she makes the journey from child to teenager. Explaining the plot any further gives too much away, so it’s best to leave it there.
All of the elements of a good play are present in Hush. There’s Trevor Schwellnus’ brilliant lighting design that shifts the audience in and out of dreamworlds with alarming precision. There’s Richard Rose’s solid staging and the cast’s equally solid performances. There’s Thomas Ryder Payne’s haunting sound design that complements rather than overpowers the show.
But there’s something unattainable about the script that just didn’t sit well with me. The characters we were introduced to didn’t seem fully sketched out, most notably Harlem’s love interest Talia (Tara Rosling). The numerous conversations centering on faith and transition seemed more abstract than character driven. I felt a bit distanced from what was going on.
Flashbacks and dream sequences are common in many plays and movies, but there’s always a clear cut difference between reality and fantasy. In Hush, these worlds merge and meld and you’re not always sure whether a scene is a dream, a flashback, the present or all three mixed together. This is probably intentional on the playwright’s part, and if its meant to confuse it achieved its goal. But in my experience, you need to draw an audience further into the world before attempting to warp their brains, and Hush could have perhaps taken more time to do that.
My show partner Jon and I walked out of the theatre after the show, unsure of what we just witnessed. We talked for a while about connecting plotlines, what was a dream and what wasn’t, and just generally what each scene meant but by the end we still didn’t have a solid opinion on the show overall.
That doesn’t mean that Hush didn’t have its moments though. The second half of the show in particular really picks up and delivers some heartwrenching and tense emotional beats. This is clearly a play that has promise, and with more workshopping and refining it could be a great work.
Photograph by Cylla von Tiedemann