Speaking in Tongues: The Lies

Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues: The Lies is one half of a Doughnut Productions double bill showing at the Pleasance Courtyard this August. Matched by its sister play The Truths, The Lies gives us a glimpse of the lives of four married individuals who initiate a quartet of love and infidelity. Each character wants to cheat on their partner with an individual from the other couple, but only two of them follow through on their impulses. What results is a detailed study of the fallout such an action causes, with the four characters adopting and exploring different emotional and ethical standpoints. The play is staged in The Green Theatre, a circular pop-up venue, but there is a twist: the audience occupy the middle of the space seated on swivelling chairs while the actors perform between the seats and around the perimeter of the theatre. Aiming to be an immersive theatrical experience, The Lies uses a shifting stage to more fully inhabit the shifting viewpoints of the various characters.

A bold and worthwhile dramatic experience.

Bovell’s text is a formally intricate piece of writing that attempts to be something larger than the sum of its component parts through its fugue-like structure. The idea is that the isolated units of dialogue combine to paint deep portraits of Leon, Sonja, Pete and Jane while exposing a more sinister set of events running parallel to the domestic passages. This approach is partially successful. We certainly come to understand the characters in considerable depth, and there are impressive moments of technical control in the writing. The two opening sequences are particularly effective; the staging of two conversations simultaneously is handled in such a way that each exchange serves to bolster the clarity and strength of the other. However, the text is not always so well crafted. Sometimes the technicality feels clinical rather than dextrous and the dramatic denouement during the ending is abrupt and rushed. The closing scene is much more interesting for what it says about Pete and Jane’s relationship than for what it offers the story, but unfortunately it is the narrative that is given the focus. This is most likely in order to persuade audience members to stay for The Truths, the second half of this play (although still a discrete drama in its own right) which is performed immediately after The Lies.

The inverted theatre-in-the-round set-up is the true draw to the show. On a mechanical level it works flawlessly, keeping us engaged throughout with thoughtful blocking. Simply put, it is exciting to experience theatre in such a mobile setting. Occasionally we are left wondering whether the staging is innovative or merely a gimmick, but on the whole it pretty much justifies itself through its complementing of the text’s themes and the sheer enjoyment it affords the audience. This is due in no small part to the performances of Phil Aizlewood, Kate Austen, Ben Elder and Georgina Periam who are excellent as the four lovers, deftly cutting from passage to passage while moving through the tight space.

Slick and quick, Speaking in Tongues: The Lies may not be the most stimulating piece of theatre but it is nonetheless a bold and worthwhile dramatic experience.

Reviews by Sam Fulton

Pleasance Dome

The Paper Cinema's Macbeth

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Speaking in Tongues: The Lies

★★★
Scottish Storytelling Centre

Fuaigh – Interweaving

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Phil Wang: Kinabalu

★★★★
Scottish Storytelling Centre

Turntable / Edinburgh

★★★★
theSpace on the Mile

Me, as a Penguin

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Inverting theatre-in-the-round, swivel chairs place you in the centre of the action with a 360-degree perspective. Four married people become entangled in a web of love and deceit, the threads of which threaten to strangle them all. Spin and watch as two couples grapple with infidelity and, in doing so, unwittingly reveal a much more sinister scandal.