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Five Kinds of Silence

Radio to Stage

Shelagh  Stephenson

fortyfive downstairs

Melbourne, AU



Violence is written on the body and engraved on the mind. Gerstle’s direction seamlessly entwines both aspects of performance. This production combines such urgent veracity and technical accomplishment that it is impossible to remain unmoved.

Cameron Woodhead. The Age.


It is an exceptional and multifaceted production, replete with intelligence, talent and courage.

Melita Pereira. Australian Stage.

Ordinary People Surviving Extraordinary Circumstances


Five Kinds of Silence takes us on a disturbing journey into the hidden vortex of familial violence and sexual abuse. It walks a wavering line between savagery and intimacy. With it's scenarios of erotically charged violence. We enter the lives of three women who have endured too many years of brutality yet their heart-breaking naivete allows them to see beauty where there is none. This is a story of survival and a passionate evocation.


Five Kinds of Silence was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 29 July 1996. It was the Winner of the 1996 Writer's Guild Award for Best Original Radio Play and the 1997 Sony Award for Best Original Drama.


Director's Perspective


When I read the text of this radio play in 2005 I was attracted to the power of the language and inspired and challenged by the idea of trying to evoke a visceral experience for an audience. However ultimately, you have to want to tell the story.

Some years ago as I was breast-feeding and channel surfing I came across Oprah surrounded by 30 or 40 women, predominately African American, laughing, chatting and reminiscing. Watching my suckling infant it eventually dawned on me that all these women had killed their husbands. All had done gaol time all had been long-term victims of abuse and none of them regretted what they had done.


The memory of this bizarre juxtaposition now haunts me.


What we know about domestic violence, if we have not experienced it ourselves, is through journalistic grabs that inevitably distance us as we perceive it to be happening to someone else. This story, however, is not uncommon. Violence and sexual abuse used as a weapon whether in the domestic sphere or on the global front is prevalent. Being controlled by a culture of fear whether domestic or global is increasing. This tale exhorts us to become aware to notice what we didn't see before and then say something about it. It asks us to break the silence.


Directed and Adapted by: Tanya Gerstle
Lighting Design: Richard Whitehouse
Soundscape Design: Alice Parkinson

Stage Manager/Sound Operator: Canada White

Ensemble: Grant Cartwright, Anne-Louise Sarks, Ella Watson-Russell, Emmaline Carroll

(original cast member: Alice Parkinson)
Producer: Darren Natale


Green Room Award

Best Male Performer: Grant Cartwright


Nominated for 2 Green Room Awards

Best Director: Tanya Gerstle

Best Lighting Design: Richard Whitehouse

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