The Words Are There is a moving and innovative piece of physical theatre that appeals both for its approach to male domestic abuse, and for its style of performance. Both are thanks to writer/director Ronan Dempsey from Nth Degree Productions.
Meticulously constructed and performed
The play is an example of the quite rare Theatre of Objects method of performance, which was a feature of the Bauhaus school of thought. Within this discipline actions, materials, objects, light and sound achieve a supremacy over characterisation, with the actor being used to construct the images and pieces needed to tell the story and interact with them. Those involved in this production are all graduates of the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, and the style is evident in the evocative facial expressions, movement and mime that Dempsey so delicately creates.
In this work, Mick has been left speechless by what he has experienced in life, uttering only three words throughout. This immediately throws the emphasis onto his actions and his relationship to the objects in the room, which he constructs into forms needed to tell the story. Although he is silent, a complex soundscape of dialogue, recordings, words and music runs throughout. Credit here needs to be paid to Gavin Hennessy who is responsible for the sound design, and is stage manager along with Rachel Stout. In the absence of dialogue, accurate cueing for this show is clearly demanding and it seemed spot on at all times. Similarly, assembling and locating the necessary items on stage requires precision to fit the movement and again, all was well in this regard. Brian Nutley added to the changing moods of the play with his accompanying lighting design.
Dempsey points out that the play "was written in response to many stories of men committing suicide in Ireland due to horrific domestic situations". The object he painstakingly constructs on stage is Trish, the subject of his amorous endeavours and to whom he falls victim. Remaining mute metaphorically reflects the general inability of men to tell of these experiences and their suffering.
The Words Are There is meticulously constructed and performed, and is an impressive interpretation of the genre in reference to an issue that, like Dempsey’s performance, is shrouded in silence.