Review: Speaking in Tongues

Dan Wood 12 February 2014

Speaking in Tongues takes a kaleidoscopic look at love, relationships and interdependence. The title invokes imagery of some dark, satanic ritual, and the opening of the play perhaps reinforces this: two parallel affairs are superimposed on the very same stage. The dialogue of these stories are woven cleverly together, in a manner that perhaps restricts a naturalistic performance but is more than compensated by the dramatic effect. It is a play of two very distinct halves.

The first explores the intertwined lives of two couples having affairs with each other. Whilst at first the line of symmetry crosses the boundary between genders, this fluctuates around to mirror the more fundamental similarities of personality traits between the characters, giving us a sense of the commonalities and contrasts between people without dumping anyone into a crudely reductionist box.

The second half is an altogether different kettle of fish, expanding on some of the minor characters eluded to in the first half. This at first feels like a bizarre spin-off, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is more of a Cheers-Frasier relationship than a Friends-Joey. Whilst the first act plays like an intimate character study, the second is more like a murder mystery, cleverly unfolding as the interconnections between the characters become apparent. This play is smart as well as entertaining, with some interesting questions posed during an engaging narrative. Each actor played several characters, which was a relief – I felt that John Porter and Kassi Chalk were able to shine and show their range much more in the second half than in the first. The stand-out performer was Olivia Emden – despite the constraints of the play’s structure she pulled off an extemporaneous performance. Dark, sophisticated and polished – well worth a watch.