Speaking in Tongues

Tue 11th – Sat 15th February 2014

reviews

Jack Pulman-Slater

at 23:39 on 11th Feb 2014

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‘Speaking in Tongues’ is a tense, though occasionally clichéd, story of nine parallel lives all complicatedly interlocked. It’s about a group of people so obsessed with self-analysis, and living vicariously through the lives of strangers that they bring themselves and those around them to the brink. It takes a while to get going, beginning with some cringe-worthy dancing which, in the confines on the Corpus Playroom, looks like four people trying to tango in a phone-box. Two scenes are layered over the top of each other, creating an echoing, call-and–response effect which you will either find outrageously annoying or powerful and thought-provoking. We’re confronted with four people who are all about to cheat on their spouses and I suppose it’s all meant to be steamy and sordid. But the scene just stumbles and falters about and is far from convincing and Jon Porter looks a little lost in this scene. The first act is saved by Olivia Emden, who is as always brilliant throughout the entire play. Her performance as the cheated-on wife Sonja and the psychologically complex Sarah are both utterly convincing and gripping. The scene changes are clumsy and messy demarcations of the action; the actors bang props about and move rostra into bed or settee shapes on the stage in the amber light, with the Latino music in the background making it look like a DFS advert.

Everything picks up in the second act, particularly Jamie Armitage’s hair (it’s honestly just worth going just to see his fantastic hair). Though Armitage’s hair is accompanied by a sterling performance from its owner in the second act as he plays the adulterous and guilt-ridden husband. Armitage bumbled about a bit in the first act, but really took off after the interval and, apart from the West Country accent which would make any Linguistics student shudder, was superb. Porter picks up the pace a bit whilst playing the unlikeable character of Nick who inadvertently find himself mixed up in a missing person investigation (brace your ears for another accent onslaught at this point). But over all his performance was a little flat, and bordered on the wooden. Kassi Chalk really shines as the Psychologist Valerie, giving the audience just the right voice and mannerisms to create a believable and cliché-free character. There are some definite movement issues in this production, with the cast either statue-like in the corners or shuffling awkwardly about the stage as though they’re boarding a bus.

Overall, this is a good piece of theatre. It’s thought-provoking and occasionally you get some moment of high and tense drama. It is a bit rough around the edges, and there were a few fluffed lines and stutters. Aside from this, the meandering scene changes and the movement issues, it is a good evening out at the theatre.

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