A simple set, clear panels, leather seats, a story of relationships. From first glance Speaking in Tongues is quintessentially a Silo Production. And I’ll admit that this time I wasn’t so sure that I would be convinced. Seated in the Herald Theatre there was a pang of I’ve seen this stuff before guys, until – Magic. What would appear at first glance to be a simple story of I love yous and I don’t know if I love you anymores became a tangled web of happenstance, missed opportunities, betrayal and mystery. Telling words that would sail past each other blindly or hit the mark but only for one. It was brilliant. It was Speaking in Tongues.
Act One opens familiarly. Two couples, two wives, two husbands, two seedy hotel rooms, the wrong husband with the wrong wife, overlapping dialogue. You’d forgive me for thinking back to Private Lives. But it’s different. These people are strangers and they’re trying to work out if they could, if they should betray the one they love(?). What follows are the consequences, the internal battles. It’s interesting to watch, an exploration of love and of living together but it’s not incredibly novel or different. It’s familiar.
The Second and Third Acts pull it all together. Little anecdotes from the first act become the main event and what had appeared at first glance to be random things that had just happened become part of a larger web of love, despair, mental illness, intrigue, crime. Everyone is connected. Everyone has something at stake.
Just like that, what had begun, as an unremarkable story of relationships becomes something beautiful, dangerous, mesmerising.
The drama of the Second and Third Acts are enhanced by the synergic relationship between lighting (Sean Lynch) and set (John Verryt). The opening half was simple, simple lights, a wall of clear panels at the back of the stage. A change between halves immediately changes things. The panels are closer and there is now an acting space behind them. Haze clouds things. It’s no longer safe, the stakes have been raised and an underlying element of panic begins to settle in the chest. Alison Bruce as ‘Valerie’ runs frenzied behind the screen in near blackout, a light from her hand shifting erratically across the space. She writes HELP on one of the panels. This isn’t just a love story anymore.
The beautiful thing about Speaking in Tongues is that even if it isn’t purely a love story it most definitely is a story. That may seem bizarre to say, surely all plays are stories? But some tell the story better than others. The story, even though told by individual voices becomes bigger than them; it’s the story as opposed to their stories. Part of this was the script, but it was also the performance and direction. Director, Shane Bosher has done this crafting something that is seamless and incredibly tight. His cast of Alison Bruce, Oliver Driver, Luanne Gordon and Stephen Lovatt are brilliant and importantly they’re together on stage, not one outshines the other.
Like I said, at first I wasn’t sure if I was going to be as impressed by Speaking in Tongues as I would usually be from a Silo work, but then it blew me out of the water. From Hui, to Red Rabbit, White Rabbit, to this it’s been a really different season and I’m excited to see where it ends up with Midsummer.
I left seeing Speaking in Tongues shamefully late in the season, so it closes this Saturday night. It’s a great work that I’d really recommend, especially to any storytellers out there.
Find more information and book tickets here.