RAW: Speaking In Tongues – 4.5K

The potential for human folly, for the search for something beyond what is more than adequate is well explored in Andrew Bovell’s (When The Rain Stops Falling etc) 1996 classic Speaking In Tongues now brilliantly revived and presented by the State Theatre Company.

When four adequately married people take to trying out a one night fling, the failure of their attempts spawns great reflections, guilt and associations that hitherto had lain dormant in them and between them and their partners.

When (in the second half) their lives get intertwined with the fates of others, some professionally, some by pure chance, a deep narrative of the human condition is created that draws the audience even closer in to every utterance. The fine humour of the first half gets over run with complexity and tension that is palpable.

The juxtaposition of one’s life and the errors within it with the circumstances of others make for poignant moments that resonate loudly – fate v plan, nurture v nature, the battle of the sexes; this is a fable for the middle aged that may well produce quaint conversations between couples on their ways home.

Bringing a work like this to a big stage and utilising just the four actors for all nine parts is no easy feat but Geordie Brookman’s direction is as courageous as it is assured with Geoff Cobham’s lighting and Victoria Lamb’s design essential assets in creating senses of isolation and desolation in a forest of increasing uncertainty.

This may well be the STC’s best work of the year. The performances of all four actors, Terence Crawford, Lizzy Falkland, Chris Pitman and Leeanna Walsman are faultless with maybe the ladies getting the nod for who excelled but many may well espouse other views.

A play that should provoke some fierce debate around town, not only for its impact on people as individuals but the sociology and psychology underpinning it all.

A wholly captivating and satisfying performance – a triumph of the STC.

Kryztoff Rating – 4.5K

1 comment

  1. Great play, disappointing production. Bovell writes lyrically with incisive and at times excoriating insight into the human psyche and heart. The play deserves better treatment than this pedestrian, shallow production. Subtextual exposition is superficial at best, with little sincerely felt engagement with character and circumstances. I’m not asking for melodrama but I felt nothing in my gut except frustration at the static staging and failure to connect with the reality of the characters. Clichéd delivery, demonstration rather than life, left me with an overwhelming urge to get this back into the rehearsal room and work with the actors to go beyond the obvious and do some genuine discovery. I couldn’t help thinking how powerfully this would have been performed by Brink or one of our small, struggling independent companies like five.point.one or Junglebean. Explore, dig, discover, experience a little pain. This is surface, self-satisfied theatre and I hated it.

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