Silent Planet

by Eve Leigh

25 November – 20 December 2014

“And there is another planet, like ours. They can’t see the sky, on that planet. Because their atmosphere is like a mirror. They look into the sky and see only themselves and the things they’ve made. So everything in their world can easily be understood. All they want is to be safe and comfortable. They fatten themselves on poison food. And when they look into the sky, they are struck dumb. By the greatness of their works.”

The World Premiere

★★★★ Guardian

The world premiere of a first play by an exciting new playwright.

At the height of the Cold War, dissident writer Gavriil is detained in a Soviet mental prison as a punishment for protesting against the government. His only escape is the prison library, a treasure store of banned literature available to the patients, but off-limits to the prison staff. His interrogator, Yurchak, offers to protect him from torture in exchange for sharing the forbidden stories. Their agreement will help them both find a kind of freedom, at the risk of their lives.

Inspired by an incident in the life of writer, activist and neurophysiologist Vladimir Bukovsky, Silent Planet is a love story about our love of stories, a passionate and poetic fable about the power of literature in a world in which the wrong words can get you killed.

Silent Planet is Eve Leigh’s first full length play. It is directed by Tom Mansfield, Artistic Director of Upstart and director of the critically acclaimed The Situation Room and Oh Well Never Mind Bye.

About The Playwright Eve Leigh

Playwright Eve Leigh trained on the Royal Court Theatre Young Writers’ Programme and Studio Group, and the National Theatre Directors’ Course. Short plays includes Enough (Birmingham REP), White Tuesday and Branches So Big They Block Out The Sun (Arcola Theatre), Wall (Festival of the North East) and You’re the Kind of Girl (Pleasance Edinburgh). Theatre as adaptor includes The Dybbuk (King’s Head Theatre). Theatre as dramaturg includes Numbers (Belarus Free Theatre) and How To Win Against History (Ovalhouse). Theatre as director includes Circles and Chris and Me (Old Red Lion Theatre), Well (Trafalgar Studios and Apollo Theatre) and The Dybbuk (King’s Head Theatre). Eve is Creative Director of the All Change Festival at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, and an Associate Artist of Firehouse Creative Productions.

About The Director Tom Mansfield

Director Tom Mansfield trained on the MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck, University of London, and at Birmingham University. Theatre includes The Situation Room (Hull Truck, Shoreditch Town Hall and UK tour), Birmingham From Above, The Engineers’ Lunch, Enough, Julius Caesar and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Young REP at Birmingham REP), Wall (Festival of the North-East), True Colours (Northern Stage at St Stephen’s), The Falling Sickness (Theatre in the Mill), 21 Writers (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Nightingale and the Rose (Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre), Oh Well Never Mind Bye (Union Theatre), Water Sculptures (Theatre503, Union Theatre and English Theatre of Bruges), Meat (Smirnoff Underbelly). Assistant Direction includes Yerma, directed by Roísín McBrinn, A Christmas Carol, directed by Nikolai Foster, and As You Like It, directed by Ian Brown (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Purgatorio (Arcola Theatre), La Voix Humaine, Dido and Aeneas, Cautionary Tales (Opera North) and L’occasione fa il ladro (Royal Academy Opera). Tom is Artistic Director of Upstart and a founding director of Oscar Mike.

The Press on Playwright Eve Leigh

“This is fantastic theatre, full of warmth and wisdom and done complete justice by an exceptionally natural cast” ★★★★★ Five Stars and Critics’ Choice, Time Out on Well

“Inventive, poignant and tears-rolling-down-the-face funny…. Wonderfully directed, played with intelligence and verve – one of the plays of the year” ★★★★ Four Stars, WhatsOnStage on Well

“A face of the future, perhaps, with some impressive credits already under her belt” WhatsOnStage “Leigh couldn’t have provided us with a script more rich in magical realism and soaring sensuality” ★★★★ Four Stars, Time Out on The Dybbuk

“A wonderful example of fine, gripping storytelling. I have been moved by this play before, but this may be the clearest telling of the story that I have seen yet” JewishTheatre on The Dybbuk

The Press on Director Tom Mansfield

“Immersive theatre at its very best…stirring, involving and highly original” ★★★★ Four Stars, WhatsOnStage on The Situation Room

“An engaging and exciting evening of immersive theatre” A Younger Theatre on The Situation Room

“A very lively, fun and engaging whole that will leave you with plenty to think about” ★★★★ Four Stars, Exeunt Magazine on The Situation Room

“Tom Mansfield’s excellently acted production…essential viewing” ★★★★ Four Stars and Critics’ Choice, Andrew Haydon, Time Out on Oh Well Never Mind Bye

“Lively, pugnacious…raises vital issues” Michael Billington, The Guardian on Oh Well Never Mind Bye

“Aggressively intelligent…Mansfield’s bold style gives the piece a physical energy that is as uncompromising as its title” ★★★★ Four Stars, Fest Magazine on Meat

“Superbly physically directed…the real achievement of this production lies in the subtlety of observation. This is an unfairly talented ensemble” ★★★★ Four Stars, EdinburghGuide on Meat

“Powerful…visceral and very human” The Stage on Chickpea Sickday Picasso Sabotage

The Press on Silent Planet

★★★★ Four Stars, The Guardian

“There is much to Silent Planet…to move you and stick in your memory.” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide London

“A welcome vein of mordant.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Eve Leigh’s subtle, smart first play is about the power of stories. But her characters aren’t simply soothed by tales round the fire – they trade yarns at the risk of their health and freedom.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“It’s a promising debut from Leigh and an intriguing story that will resonate with anyone who has ever been transfixed by a novel or moved by a poem.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“Other plays – notably Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour – have been written about the cruel absurdity by which the Soviet system subjected political dissidents to psychiatric imprisonment. Eve Leigh, in her first full-length play, gives the situation a new twist by showing how the need for stories subverts the relationship between interrogator and prisoner.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“In a tense 80 minutes, however, she explores the strange intimacy that develops between the equally imprisoned captor and captive, and shows the human need for sustaining fictions.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“As a first play, it reveals unusual maturity.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Intelligent writing and two outstanding performances.” Stephen Bates, The Public Reviews

“There’s a strong taste of George Orwell’s 1984 in Eve Leigh’s first full-length play, although Leigh is more hopeful about the resilience of the human spirit.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Beautifully written.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Leigh is particularly good at invoking the strange power exerted by Russia's dissident writers.” Miriam Gillinson, The Arts Desk

“Silent Planet might still herald a glorious career for a new playwright.” Senne Vercouteren, A Younger Theatre

“Eve Leigh’s assured first full-length play.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Leigh’s economical dialogue manages to convey a lot in the play’s 100 minutes.” Emily McGovern, Russian Art and Culture

“Graeme McKnight is very good as a wretched, ill Gavriil, and Matthew Thomas maintains a satisfying air of ambiguity as Yurchak.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“First-rate performances from Matthew Thomas, slowly crumbling in his quest for banned narrative substances, and from Graeme McKnight as the truculent Gavriil, whose support of human rights and well-stocked literary mind gives him an unsuspected strength.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The convincing Graeme McKnight.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Thomas and McKnight have a strong chemistry as the desperate patient and doctor. Thomas really shines, however, as the captured nonconformist who seems ever fearful that perhaps it’s all been for nothing.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Graeme McKnight captivating as the jittery and strung-out prisoner who sits hunched, arms wrapped around himself, as if attempting to hide within his body.” Miriam Gillinson, The Arts Desk

“An excellent turn by Kevin Hand as Gavril’s sadistic new doctor.” Emily McGovern, Russian Art and Culture

“McKnight and Thomas are at turns dynamic and subdued, their volatile relationship the driving force behind this tense and highly-charged piece.” Emily McGovern, Russian Art and Culture

“She is well served by Tom Mansfield’s production, which manages, even on an open, metallic platform, to create a sense of confinement.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Directed with claustrophobic intensity by Tom Mansfield.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Petra Hjortsberg’s sparse, simple designs make Yurchak’s office into a kind of liminal no man’s land.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“All the cosiness was sucked out of this small venue to create a chilling atmosphere.” Jon Wainright, Atomies

25 November – 20 December 2014

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from 6 December 2014)
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately 70 minutes with no interval