REVIEW The Meeting at The Minerva Theatre, Chichester
That's how The Meeting begins: a community of quakers sat in a circle, praying in silence. It is the cornerstone of the whole performance: the silence of the protagonist Rachel's deaf mother, the silence of her dead babies, the silencing of her desire to spread the word of their religion by her husband. But in an ironic twist, the ending was anything but silent, as rapturous applause filled the Minerva. The journey to get there was almost as rocky as the quarry-esque set. Slow to get going, it was not until the introduction of Nathaniel Burns, an invalided solider who Rachel invites into their home, that it sparked some sexual tension. Several actors stumbled over their lines in the first half, but the energy onstage compensated the rough edges. By the second half, however, the stage was set for some dramatic home truths and twists - and credit must go to Brighton-based playwright Charlotte Jones for the originality of a play about Quakers and sign language. Those that brought it to life were also key, such as Tony nominee Lydia Leonard for capturing the frustration and eventual emancipation of Rachel. Olivia Darnley's energy as the busybody matriarch Biddy Rickman was hilarious and unhinged - but it was Jean St Clair as Rachel's deaf mother who stole the show at the 11th hour, with a monologue where she quite literally found her voice, bringing the cast and many audience members to tears. It was not a perfect performance - but I would take raw emotion any day of the week. Until August 11.