Talking out loud: Putting the individual into theatre?

Genevieve Cox 2 February 2015

Is the theatre outdated? Are we using stale forms of stage to replay the same stories over and over again? Once upon a time, a musical was innovative – using melody and lyrics to depict actions, emotions and characters. In Renaissance England, humour and satire took centre stage. At Shakespeare’s Globe, tragedy, comedy and history were originally delightful. Yet today, in 2015, a contemporary Britain, should we really be relying on the same forms and structures and stories as our ancestors or should we be trialling anew different ways of entertaining at the theatre?

A new play, written and directed by Sidney Belony, takes the old conventions of theatre and replaces them with a whole new style of production. A play composed entirely of monologues where the four voices of four diverse characters collide to tell the stories of characters who – although inter-related – do not speak to one another on stage. A unique production which takes four young people living in modern Britain, and puts a spotlight on their lives and individual experiences, prioritising the role of the individual above all else.  

“I feel that sometimes in theatre, characters can get lost in their relations with each other,” said Sidney, a third year at Gonville and Caius. “It can become more about the relations between characters than their importance as individuals in their own right.” In Talking Out Loud, we learn about the characters through their own words. We hear them talk about their lives, experiences, and relations with each other. Sidney explains this quite simply: “I wanted to put individuals, and their voices, centre-stage.” 

Not only is the formal approach of using monologues a new idea, but it also allows the show to touch on a number of big, controversial topics. Through the monologue structure, characters can talk frankly about their diverse experiences, and topics such as race, religion and gender all feature prominently in the show. The central love story of Ayesha and Jonathan, for instance, deals directly with the subject of an inter-racial, inter-faith relationship. In fact, it was a desire to bring a show about diversity to the Cambridge theatre scene which led to the creation of Talking Out Loud.

That said, Sidney is keen to emphasise that she does not see the show as having any sort of political agenda. Talking Out Loud is about taking somewhat abstract concepts such as ‘religion’ and ‘diversity’ and dealing with them from a real world perspective. It is first and foremost, said Sidney, about “how the four individuals in the show deal with things that happen in their lives”. Indeed, alongside discussions of controversial issues, we hear the characters talk about six-a-side football leagues, haircuts and frustration at having to do GCSE Science homework. An original, innovative play devised of individual monologues and focusing on four solo voices, Talking Out Loud is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale world.