Noise, Memory, Gesture: The Theatre in a Minute's Silence

Brown, Ross (2009) Noise, Memory, Gesture: The Theatre in a Minute's Silence. In: Performance, Embodiment and Cultural Memory. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle Upon Tyne, pp. 203-221. ISBN 9781443811200


At 12 noon on 7 July 2006, London observed a two minute silence to mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on its public transport system. On pavements outside workplaces, in shopping centres and in tube stations, people paused in their journeys, set down their bags, and adopted familiar poses of silent remembrance. A strange thrall descended, to which the urban permadrone, distant sounds of building works and individual locomotive events, formed a distant perimeter. The two minutes passed, but outside my workplace people did not move. The two minutes became five, before people gently moved away. I tried to imagine a piece of silent theatre comprising nothing more than the same sublime, anxious thrill of pause, in which nothing is said, but in which the mundane becomes monumentally strange and yet fond, in which audience becomes performance; in which the body tingles with memory and sound; in which noise and stray thoughts are allowed to be exquisite rather than guilty interruptions.

This thought provided the impetus for a two-year practical investigation of the minute's silence as theatre. This chapter is not about that research, but offers some thoughts derived from it pertinent to the themes of this book. It looks at the minute's silence as a modern ritualised practice of cultural remembrance, and in particular at the ways in which it connects the inner selves of participants, through the energetically inscribed tissue of the body, to the external environment.


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