Speaking in Tongues

Director, Geordie Brookman, has given himself a head start to success with his choice of this AWGIE award winning and critically acclaimed script by Andrew Bovell. Get a ticket before they all go and hurry to this remarkably fine production.

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Presented by State Theatre Company of SA
Reviewed Wednesday 6th July 2011

http://www.statetheatrecompany.com.au/season-2011/speaking-in-tongues?layout=item

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 24th July various days and times, see the BASS web site for details
Duration: 2hrs 5min incl interval
Tickets: adult $59/conc $52/under 30s $29
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au

Director, Geordie Brookman, has given himself a head start to success with his choice of this AWGIE award winning and critically acclaimed script by Andrew Bovell. I was lucky enough to see the performance here in The Space about a decade and a half ago and was intrigued to see what Brookman would do with it. If the title means nothing to you, then you might be more familiar with Bovell's own adaptation for the screen, where it was retitled, Lantana.

The first act concerns the relationships of four people, from our first discovery of them paired up in hotel rooms, after meeting in bars, each couple planning a bout of casual, extramarital sex. After much discussion, Leon and Jane go through with it, but Pete and Sonja back away at the last minute. As it happens, Pete is married to Jane, and Leon is married to Sonja.

This first scene is notable for the clever way in which Bovell has constructed the conversations. Both philandering couples are on stage at the same time, sitting on the same bed but actually in different locations, and their conversations, though similar, take different paths. In so doing, two people, one from each pair, often either say the same line at the same time, or the end of one person's line is the start of another's. This demands split second timing on the part of the four actors, and these four are spot on. They also all have superb diction, which is essential for this to work.

The couples are then seen back with their spouses, and admissions and confrontations ensue, followed by separations. The two men meet by chance, consoling themselves in a bar. Leon realises who Pete is and gives a false name. The two women meet in a club and both eventually realise who the other is. The spouses then get back together after a lengthy period of separation and tell rather odd stories of things that happened to them while alone.

There is a fair degree of comedy in the situations running through the early stages of the play, but that gradually changes, the later part turning into a very dark drama, even a tragedy. It is, in fact, two plays in one, the second coming out of the seemingly unimportant incidents in the first.

Leon is a policeman and the stories that were told in act 1 now become the focus of act 2, with him as the investigating officer. Only one, two or three degrees of separation, not six, is the order of the day here. We now discover the details behind the fragments of stories we heard in the first act, meet the people involved, and come to understand how they all relate to one another in what at first seems to be a murder mystery, but goes far beyond that and also concerns another case of infidelity.

Lizzie Falkland, Chris Pitman, Leeanna Walsman and Terence Crawford tackle the nine roles, presenting us with a collection of terrific characterisations, convincingly displaying an enormously wide range of emotions. They weave their way brilliantly around the complex and intertwining threads running through this exploration of the possibility of serious consequences caused by minor acts or decisions made by ordinary people.

Brookman and his wonderful cast have got right inside this play and constructed a very tight and absorbing performance that brings out all of the subtleties and unspoken communications resulting in a riveting evening.

Victoria Lamb's design and Geoff Cobham's lighting combine superbly to create an eerily atmospheric backdrop to the events unfolding and DJ TR!P's music mix complements the production very well.

If you have seen the film, you will certainly want to see the play from which it was adapted. If you have seen this great play before, then you will no doubt want to see it again. If you haven't seen either, then get a ticket before they all go and hurry to this remarkably fine production.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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