Wednesday, September 30, 2009

speaking in tongues - review

“A missing person. A mysterious stiletto. Relationships in crisis. In SPEAKING IN TONGUES, the seemingly random confessions of a group of strangers are pieced together into a powerful study of infidelity and interwoven lives, as Detective Leon Zat (John Simm) investigates the disappearance of a leading psychiatrist (Lucy Cohu).” 

One of the most exciting (and to me unexpected) features of blogging/twittering/flickring/general web 2.0-ing is actually meeting cyber friends in person. So I was thrilled when the charming and talented Zefrog of (newly renamed) blog Pink Sauce invited me to a preview of Speaking in Tongues. It was a great evening out. His review appears in Londonist. This is my take.

The production features some beautiful, supple ensemble acting from the cast of 4 (John Simm, Lucy Cohu, Ian Hart and Kerry Fox), who play 9 different characters in total. I can see why this text (by Andrew Bovell) would appeal to actors and directors - although the individual lines are simple and naturalistic, the writer patterns them largely in intercutting, almost mosaicized soliloquies, creating steep technical challenges. Meaning emerges haltingly through cross-jumps, cuts, and temporal distortions. The effect is frequently astonishing, really quite jaw-dropping - and it depends critically on perfect timing and interaction between the actors and the production team, which they pull off magnificently well.

At other times, however, Bovell’s technique can tend to slow things down and things get tangled up in lengthy, repetitious backstory. Concentration is critical. As the audience attempts to piece the story together clues can emerge from anywhere. If your concentration momentarily fails, you’ve lost it as the plot moves on.

The sombre, slightly seedy set works powerfully in the first act (largely bars and bedrooms) and opens out in the second, where back projection of a forest helps to create an ominous atmosphere. Lighting and music create flashes of beauty throughout.

Speaking in Tongues is playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 12 December 2009.

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