By Courtney Kratz, Contributor
Described as “a girl, a lover and a mother…trapped in a world without voice or color,” a clown-noir theater group brought an avant-garde style reminiscent of silent film to the Furman Playhouse stage Jan. 15.
Furman Theater presented “Silent Reflections,” a clown-noir cabaret performed by visiting artists Women From Mars as part of its 2016 U.S. tour. The performers mimed their actions in silence, clad in black and white, while illustrating feminist themes throughout the piece.
The performance featured Francesca Chilcote as “The Girl,” Dory Rebekah Sibley as “The Mother” and Genevieve Durst as “The Lover.” They performed to a soundtrack they created in collaboration with their sound designer, Raffaele Abbate of Orange Home Records.
The show originally premiered in 2014 at the Crisis Art Festival in Arezzo, Italy and has since been praised for its feminist themes. It studies the impact on women when they are forced to support sexualized and demeaning stereotypes in both life and the media, making them powerless and disenfranchised.
The characters are forced to confront their insecurities in the face of the boundaries set in place by society. The show uses the characters of the three clowns to portray these themes in what the performers describe as a “fresh, farcical, and sometimes grotesque look at what society has done to the way women view themselves.”
Using an eclectic array of mediums, the performers employ physical theatre techniques, animation, projections, comedy, modern dance, music and drama to “reflect and expose the inherent struggles in three stages of womanhood.”
They explore themes including competition amongst women, self-image, societal expectations, abusive relationships, oppression and many others. The show itself is made more impactful by the sense that all that is happening to the characters has taken away their voices, hence the silent performance.
During an interview after the show, Dory Rebekah Sibley, “The Mother,” commented on the show’s inception. She says the group was united in its desire to portray the struggles of gender.
“From there we started talking about personal experiences and making lists of personal experiences, and then very quickly it just sort of took off,” Sibley said.
“I’ve always been terrified of clowns, and I’ve always been fascinated by what terrifies me,” she added. By using a more clownish than diva figure, Sibley says they were able to exploit the use of a terrifying figure to address terrifying issues.
Geneviève Durst, “The Lover,” said, “I think what we’re doing with this style is we’re giving the opportunity to the viewer to project, which is what I think so often happens during our performance.”
Using the archetypes of girl, lover and mother allows audiences to project their own complexities onto the characters, who are made more interpretive by their lack of dialogue. Durst similarly spoke about how the silent nature of the piece left many aspects up to viewer interpretation, which she further proposed is in keeping with feminist themes, as many people have a different idea of what feminism is.
“I think that what’s interesting about this piece and the style we’ve chosen is that we don’t say anything,” Durst said. “And I think that part of what makes this piece so accessible is there’s so much that we communicate to one another and so much that we get from one another that we don’t realize we’re communicating.”
As one of the main themes of the piece, this communicative support system between the performers is indicative of how the piece encourages women to support one another.
“One of the themes we wanted to look at was the competition between women and how we take each other’s power away,” Sibley said.
With this theme and many others, “Silent Reflections” portrayed both the struggles and triumphs of women in a world that attempts to limit them. By showing the adversity women are faced with as well as the need for support from one another, Women From Mars uses silence to bring forth an impactful message that resonates beyond the power of words.