The Language Archive

We have all been through frustrating moments of not being able to find the right words at the right time. For George and his wife Mary, this problem is seeing their marriage disintegrate.

An inventive and whimsical play, with gently quirky characters moving through themes of love, loss, and life

George is a talented linguist, dedicated to the task of documenting dying languages, helped by his sweet and adoring assistant Emma. George confesses that he is more moved by the death of a language than a death of a person, and therein lies the irony that plagues him throughout the play; the inability to show emotion or feeling through the languages he loves and mourns, much to Mary, and Emma’s, agony. After leaving cryptic and desperate notes around the house for George to find, Mary leaves, and the language of loss that The Language Archive endeavours to unpick throughout its duration begins to utter its first words.

The Language Archive is an inventive and whimsical play, with gently quirky characters moving through themes of love, loss and life using the rhythms and qualities of unknown and dying languages to help the characters, and the audience, to make sense of them. Julia Cho’s script is beautifully poetic if at times a little sickly, and it sometimes spends a little too long waxing poetic and too little time developing George – who remains tongue-tied and stilted throughout. Moments of unlikely happenings unfortunately make some of the enchanting events seem contrived, which makes for a slightly frustrating narrative at times. However, genuinely special moments emerge, such as the audience to character exchange of Esperanto, an international language invented in 1887, exploring the subtleties of simple but important phrases.

The cast of five included some familiar New Venture faces, and they took to the challenging task of juggling nine characters (plus languages and accents) between them will skill and ease. Perfectly timed comedy bobbed along in perfect balance with expressions of grief, and every cast member delivered their many parts with conviction, adeptly conveying subtleties in the script and allowing the subtext-rich play to unravel naturally.

Any frustrations in the piece seemed to be caused by the script itself, with no real weaknesses to be found in the cast, direction, or even the inventive set made up of white cabinets that unfolded and unpacked to reveal bakeries, hospitals, and archive recording rooms. The Language Archive is a unique play deftly played out by another team of talented NVT actors and directors, who provide a memorable and delicately thought-provoking evening.

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The Blurb

George is a brilliant linguist, consumed with preserving and documenting dying languages. But at home, he cannot find the words that will save his disintegrating marriage. His archival assistant is mute with adoration for him; and his newest subjects, an elderly couple who are the last speakers of an obscure language, refuse to utter a word to one another. A magically inventive comedy.

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