Review - The Art of Silence
Story by Shirley Slater (Media Relations Officer)
14 November 2005
The Art of Silence is a tough play to watch … and so it should be. In a little over an hour Nelson Viveros and Emilio Barreto tell the story of Emilio’s imprisonment without trial or reason at the hands of the Paraguayan dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. There are no props, no music – just the roughly marked boundaries of a space two metres by three; the size of the cell which Emilio shared for 13 years.
For the audience it is an uncompromising and unrelenting experience. We feel uncomfortably pampered, remote and ignorant as we are drawn into the nightmare almost beyond imagination.
Nelson Vivero’s performance as ‘Young Emilio’ is terrific, but this is not a play in which ‘performance’ is really relevant. It is about the authenticity of experience and the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable brutality. Emilio and his comrades endured torture, degradation and abuse not with bravery but with the obduracy of a shared song, a joke or a memory which could not be dimmed.
It is a privelege to
have met him and
heard his story.
For Emilio Barreto, The Art of Silence is an opportunity to exorcise the demons of his imprisonment and torture, but above all it is the means to bear witness; to indict the brutality of one dictatorship in particular, and of fascism in general.
The play is punctuated by ‘silent screams’. We remember these screams as we meet Emilio, Nelson and writer/director Jennifer Hartley for an informal discussion between cast and audience after the performance; an encounter which is an integral part of the event. Emilio himself is quietly dignified, cheerful and optimistic. It is a privelege to have met him and heard his story. He has borne witness … and now that responsibility and obligation passes to his audience.