'The ''S'' Is Silent', a production by University of Essex BA Drama and Literature 2022 graduate, Marina Cusi Sanchez, premiered to raving reviews at the Off-West-End this April 2023. Marina tells us more about debut London experience with her fledgling theatre company and original play.
Our week-long run of 'The ''S'' Is Silent' at The Pleasance Theatre in London was an absolute dream come true. If someone had told me just a year ago that my Drama dissertation piece would end up premiering at such an iconic venue in the Off-West-End as my first professional original play, I think I would have fainted.
I started Mad, Who?, our theatre company, during the 2020 pandemic, whilst studying Drama and Literature at the University of Essex. Thanks to the help and support of the Essex Startups team, I started the journey of building the company from scratch, and launched it publicly in September of 2022, two months after graduating.
Mad, Who?, a play on words on the Madonna/whore complex theory, is an emerging, multicultural and multidisciplinary theatre company that focuses on telling stories about human rights issues, always told through a feminist lens.
Our first show, 'The ''S'' Is Silent', is a piece about womanhood during the Spanish civil war and subsequent 40-year-long fascist dictatorship. Spain, my home country, is currently being shaken to its core by an expanding feminist wave crashing against its deeply rooted patriarchal social structures, but to understand this movement we must look back to an uncomfortable past through the eyes and voices of those who have been historically left out of the narrative: women. In 'The ''S'' Is Silent' , a group of friends find clues about life during Spain’s recent fascist past as they help my character, Marina, dig through her late grandmother's belongings.
But rummaging through generational trauma isn't easy. If knowing about our past is the only way of not repeating the same errors in the future, how can we learn from a history that has been silenced? Through spoken word, visual poetry, and flamenco dance, Mad, Who? transports audiences to the most important events of the Spanish civil war, retold from a woman’s perspective.
'The ''S'' Is Silent' started off as my dissertation project, a 30 minute piece I first showcased at the Lakeside Theatre in May 2022. After being awarded the 'Audience Award' at FestelOff 2022, our show premiered as a fully developed 1 hour show at The Pleasance Theatre in London on 11 to 15 April 2023.
For the duration of our run, our team moved to London to fully immerse ourselves into the London-run experience. Most of the company members are either current or past University of Essex students, so it was really reassuring to be making the leap to London together, with people with whom we’ve shared classes, workshops, and campus life with.
Our 5 shows, which we performed daily, went by smoothly, and attracted more attention than we had anticipated. Audiences really connected with the play, which was one of my main concerns of producing multilingual work in the UK. 'The ''S'' Is Silent' is mostly performed in Spanish, with English subtitles, a practice that is quite normal in European theatres, but I haven’t seen much of in the UK.
We all really enjoyed the conversations that the show sparked around themes of the rise of right-wing politics, authoritarian regimes, and the link between them and misogyny. As Europe descends into what seems like a revival of fascist ideals, with several countries electing far-right parties to lead them, we must look back into our not-so-distant past to see what happens when hate, bigotry, and a fascist government wins over a country.
We were surprised by the number of theatre critics who came to see the show – we even had the pleasure to welcome someone from the British Theatre Guide! - who took the time to write lovely reviews for the show, which you can read snippets of below:
★★★★ "A powerful show" (4/5)
★★★★ "Intense and enlightening" (4/5)
★★★★ "Lively passionate energetic performance" (4/5)
★★★★★ "Very good. Inventive non-linear narrative" (5/5)
★★★★ "Great! Go and see it!" (4/5)
(Snippets of five reviews by critics from Audience Club, Papering Agency)
So, we can now finally announce that our first show as a company has been awarded an average of 4 stars across the board!
Our professional debut at The Pleasance marked a huge milestone in my life, and I have so many people to thank for their help, support, and hard work on making this happen:
If you would like to see the show, we have been confirmed for another London run of 'The "S" Is Silent' 11 to 13 of July at The Space Theatre, in Canary Wharf.
Gallery Experience Assistant, Art Exchange, University of Essex
BA Drama and Literature 2022 graduate and current Gallery Experience Assistant at Art Exchange, the University of Essex's on-campus art gallery, is also Director of her own Theatre company, Mad, Who? and is currently touring the UK with her debut show, The S is Silent.
A Catalan native, Marina joined the University of Essex in 2019 with the aim of building on her drama school training and increasing her theoretic knowledge of drama, theatre and literature.
Professor Liz Kuti
04 February 2022
Categories: Research, Public Engagement