Robert Holman's trilogy of short plays, Making Noise Quietly, explores the devastating impact of war on ordinary lives. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 26 June 1986.
In the first play, Being Friends, two young men meet by chance in a field at Oxen Hoath, Kent, in July 1944. Oliver Bell is a conscientious objector, spending the war working on a farm; Eric Faber is a roaming artist, uninhibited by his homosexuality. As doodlebugs fly overhead, they talk of the war and its morality, and an intense bond forms between them.
In the second play, Lost, Geoffrey Church, a young naval Lieutenant, visits the home of May Appleton in Redcar, Cleveland, in June 1982. He has come to inform her that her son Ian has been killed in action in the Falklands.
The third play, Making Noise Quietly, is set in August 1986 in the Black Forest in south-west Germany. Helene Ensslin, a German Jewish woman and concentration camp survivor, plays host to a brutish British squaddie, Alan Tadd, and his autistic stepson, Sam. Alan, haunted by his experiences in the Falklands, has been abandoned by his wife, and takes out his violent, inarticulate feelings on the son, whom she also left behind, with cruel beatings. As a result the traumatised Sam now communicates only with feral screeches and by writing words on his arm. Yet beyond the violence both the man and the boy clearly care for each other deeply, and Helene attempts to break the cycle of anger and abuse.
The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by John Dove and designed by Kenny Miller. The cast was Jonathan Cullen, Ronan Vibert, Jean Boht, Jonathan Coy, Helen Ryan, Paul Copley and Daniel Kipling.
The trilogy was revived by the Oxford Stage Company at the Whitehall Theatre, London, on 14 April 1999 after touring to Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh. It was directed by Deborah Bruce and designed by Anthony MacIlwaine. The cast was John Lloyd Fillingham, Peter Hanly, Eleanor Bron and Philip Dowling.
It was revived again at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 19 April 2012 in a production directed by Peter Gill and designed by Paul Wills. The cast was Ben Batt, Susan Brown, Jordan Dawes, Sara Kestelman, John Hollingworth, Matthew Tennyson, Lewis Andrews, Jack Boulter and Ethan Hammer.