Permission to Speak brims with the joy of confession, of sharing the burden of silently held pain. It is a space to listen deeply and revel in the sound of human disclosure and discovery. It is a space to be heard.
Chamber Made Opera creates a soft, sacred space. Bosco Shaw’s design is simple and fluid, moving with and through the audio experience. Lighting divides and reconciles the space, the window-esque pattern of light drawing attention to the isolation and separateness of each testimony while at the same time uniting the performers and stories within this transient window into the universally fraught experience of family. Seated in a square surrounding the performance space, the audience is made to feel a part of the piece, included and embraced by the performance.
The moment the performers begin to sing is a moment of awe. The interweaving harmonies composed by Kate Neal are so beautiful, so delicate, that it feels like such a privilege to witness the creation of this sound on stage. The harmonising of voiced hesitations is particularly hypnotic, giving space and weight and meaning to the ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ that litter our conversations. This feeling of awe permeates the performance, with the use of sound so exquisitely and perfectly encapsulating the inability to express, the tension, the anger and the love that complexly interweave in the fabric of parent-child relationships. The combination within the performance of live text performance, live music and recorded voice creates a textured listening experience that is deep and layered and fizzling with the unspoken. Percussive sound created with commonplace domestic objects adds to a sense that these piercing, difficult and sacred emotions are held within the paraphernalia of the everyday. The delicate flowing and shifting between different modes of telling and listening is a testament to Neal, director Tamara Saulwick and sound designer Jethro Woodward. The voices swirl softly in the space and it is as if Chamber Made Opera have tapped into the deep rumbling whisper of millennia of voices lamenting and reconciling the parent-child relationships in their lives.
Performers Gian Slater, Georgie Darvidis, Josh Kyle and Edward Fairlie hold the space with a clarity of focus while maintaining an energy of beautiful intimacy. Their individual vocal skill is stunning, with their voices coalescing into a special kind of magic. They move as parts of a whole, folding from choreography to text performance to complex vocal harmony with a naturalness that speaks of honesty and humanness. Their ability to ride the tonal shifts from humorous to deeply moving while shifting between these different physical and vocal performance modes is a delight to watch. Dressed simply in piecemeal black garments and sneakers, their interaction with the space seems at the same time a form of synchronisation and personal expression. Like so much of the piece, the performers float in the space between idiosyncrasy and universality.
Permission to Speak is an incredibly generous piece, folding the audience within the complexities of parent-child relationships. Staging the sounds and voices of silence, it offers a space for the audience to connect their family relationships with those of others, affirming a sense that these complex feelings and experiences between parent and child belong to a long lineage of such experience. Performed with a stylised simplicity that in no way diminishes complexity, this piece is a soft joy, a catharsis, an honest act of connecting.