Theatre by the Lake continues its reputation for programming challenging work with a local twist in the second of their three Studio plays this Summer Season; Cumbria plays a crucial role in Silence, Moira Buffini’s funny and provocative play that opens on Friday 18 June.

Directed by Associate Director Stefan Escreet and set in the mud of the Dark Ages at the turn of the first millennium, the play features a feisty French princess, a sexually frustrated priest, a king not so much unready as mad and a gender-uncertain Viking lord; the plot hinges on cross-dressing, religious doubt, a Kent-to-Cumbria cart chase and a large helping of magic mushrooms.

The action of Silence may take place more than 1000 years ago but, as Buffini notes in an interview for Theatre by the Lake, the play is about now. It was written in 1999 and Buffini uses the chaos experienced by her characters to suggest the fears, stresses and anxieties felt by the modern world as it staggers from one millennium to the next. “Nothing is sure in this world and the future isn’t rosy,’’ says Buffini. “That’s what I explore in my work: that uncertainty.’’

One reference to Cumbria may well be seized on by the county’s tourism officials: “Cumbria is beautiful. It’s a land of green mountains and still waters, of forests and cold rivers and I only have to think of it to know that I am strong” (Silence).
 
Other references will make those same officials throw up their hands in horror: “Cumbria is a wasteland on the edge of the civilised world”. It gets worse: “I’ve heard that people in Cumbria share their bed with pigs and drag their knuckles on the ground” (Ymma).
 
Silence opens in Theatre by the Lake’s Studio on Friday 18 June and runs until Saturday 6 November. Please note this production contains strong language and sexually explicit scenes.