Sometimes, just one good idea is enough to make a show a success. It seem that this is what Doughnut Productions were counting on with their production of
There is not much substance to the style
Speaking in Tongues is presented as a two-part show: ‘The Lies’ and ‘The Truths’, though both contain their own individual set of characteristics so can be viewed independently. The story is an exploration of what may have happened to a woman who has gone missing and how four seemingly independent people’s lives are tangled together. The gimmick of the show is that the audience are all sat on their own swivel chairs so that they can decide which way to face during the show. Undoubtedly a novel experience, but in this case an entirely unnecessary one.
The chairs add very little to the production. Dialogue is either quickly changing between each side (you aren’t going to spin your chair every half second) or fixed in one place. The show would have been no more enthralling if it had been staged in a conventional end-on setting. At one point, desperate to make use of the swivel action, an interrogation scene is blocked with the two actors pacing in full circles slowly around the seating area. This is a very unnatural way for the men to navigate the space under the circumstances, and in a piece striving for realistic acting, it looks ridiculous.
The text of the play is tiring to listen to. Writer Andrew Bovell seemed to have a penchant for the use of overlapping monologues with speeches continuously cutting across each other. This is fine at first, adding to the attempt at creating suspense, but any hope of that effect wears off due to its almost non-stop use. You would hope that relief from this style of monologue would present itself in the dialogue section, however this is not the case. It continues to be short sentences, with the characters interrupting each other.
This is a play that relies solely on the premise that it is kind of cool and different to witness a piece of theatre from a rotating chair. However, when the chairs are superfluous and the tale unimpressive it quickly becomes apparent that there is not much substance to the style.