The Tower Theatre performing at the Bridewell Theatre
Photography by David Sprecher
"I didn't know what to expect from Speaking In Tongues, if only because the sole clue in the programme was Australian author Andrew Bovell's comment 'I hate theatre when it is exactly what you are expecting it to be.'
More helpful is the flyer, which promises 'a number of separate but interlinked stories .. nine parallel lives connected by four infidelities, one missing person and a mysterious stiletto ... encounters, confessionals and interrogations that gradually reveal the darker side of human nature.' Oh goody, grab the popcorn.
Nothing promises Australian gothic better than Nick Cave, whose Do You Love Me? plays as two married couples appear in
separate hotel bedrooms - but the husbands are with the wrong wives. Their conversations interweave and overlap as each tries to come to terms with the guilt of what they may or may not be about to do. This scene is beautifully written and very, very hard to perform as the characters have to say some lines simultaneously in different conversations, with the doubled-up voices giving extra power to such lines as 'I just wanted to feel something' and 'I wanted to know if I was still attractive.'
The first half follows these four characters as their stories move together and apart in a choreographed dance of dialogue to the soundtrack of Cave's twisted romantic ballads. All four actors are excellent in their portrayal of frustration, disillusionment, bitterness and guilt, while Julie Arrowsmith, resplendent in her red dress, adds an unconquered sexuality to her character's insecurity, giving her performance an authority that anchors the first half.
In the second half, new characters take up the stories alluded to in the first half, and the threads of their stories fray and tangle delightfully. Leon, the policeman played by Laurence Ward, is the only survivor from the first half : the dark sun around which the other worlds blindly orbit. His subtle acting brought out the humour of Leon's emotional dishonesty, influencing the lives of those around him without their knowledge.
Given the characters' near-permanent state of emotional crisis, the temptation to over-act is almost irresistible. Maybe it was resisted too successfully in the scene where Jane tells her husband that she might have witnessed the aftermath of a murder, as the scene lacked energy and tension and created a subdued mood after a gripping and funny first half. Later, John's interrogation about his wife's disappearance needed a bit more passion, although I'm sure the director would argue that the absence of passion revealed something far more interesting about John. Apart from those moments, the director and cast are to be commended for avoiding the temptation to turn the play into a carnival of histrionics.
This was a brilliantly written play, splendidly acted by a strong cast. The play fulfils Bovell's promise of something unexpected, but it
isn't pretentious or difficult to watch. It had tension, mystery and pathos, but it was also very funny in places - not funny like 'Despicable Me 2'; more like the humour of people who talk without communicating and try to control their own worlds but are blind to the other people and events that shape their lives.
(Patrick Neylan for Sardines magazine)
Meet the Director and cast ...
Cast Leon : Laurence Ward
Sonja : Julie Arrowsmith
Pete : Craig Carruthers
Jane : Anna Dimdore
Neil : Chris McCrudden
Sarah : Jill Ruane
Valerie : Ruth Sullivan
Nick : Andrew Steele
John : Martin South
Director : John McSpadyen
Set Design : Jude Chalk
Costume Design : Sheila Burbidge
Lighting Design : Andy Peregrine
Sound Design : Phillip Ley
Stage Manager : Richard Davies
ASMs : Ian Hoare, Martin Brady
Lighting Operator : Ruth Anthony
Sound Operator : Michael Bettell
Set Construction : Keith Syrett and members of the cast & crew
Publicity : Ruth Sullivan, Ann Blumenstock
Laurence Ward has previously appeared with Tower Theatre as 'The Man' in Some Girl(s), Catesby in 5/11, Cassius in Julius Caesar and Banquo in Macbeth. He also appeared as James in The Bridge and the Clam, part of the 2012 Tower new writing showcase and the Lost Theatre new writing competition. Laurence trained at City Lit and has appeared in a number of devised productions created by Fold Up Theatre, a company he co-created. Other credits include The Fold Up Sketch Show, Romeo and Juliet (Benvolio), The Canterbury Tales (Miller), sketches filmed for an online comedy channel and a sequence of short films which he also produced.
Julie Arrowsmith literally brought the house down at the age of fifteen when her prop cottage fell on her during a production of Hans, The Witch and The Gobbin. Thus began her love affair with the stage. She performed with Manchester Youth Theatre and Leeds University Studio Theatre (The Room, Under Milk Wood, West Side Story). Her credits since joining the Tower Theatre in 2003 include The Comedy of Errors, Jane Eyre, Garden, Look Back in Anger (Helena), Men of The World (Frank), Playboy of the Western World (Widow Quinn), Calendar Girls (Celia). Her favourite role was Lady Macbeth in the Tower's 2011 production. By day she is a speech and language therapist.
Craig Carruthers has been a member of the Tower Theatre since 2001, making his non-speaking, non-singing, non-dancing debut in A Little Night Music. Other appearances include Biloxi Blues, Celebration, The Seagull, Ghosts and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; he now has a nice line of syphilitic / suicidalists on his resumé.
This is Anna Dimdore's second play with Tower Theatre having played Karen in Jake's Women in 2011. With other groups she has played roles such as Tessa in Funeral Games, Linda in Play it Again Sam, Mary in The Memory of Water and Eva in Absurd Person Singular. She has also directed Twelfth Night and Dinner and co-directed The Memory of Water, and makes occasional forays into costume and set design.
Jill Ruane joined the Tower in 2007 and since then has been involved in many shows, both on stage and behind the scenes. Her acting credits with the Tower include Mairead in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Mary in Dublin Carol, Olwen in Dangerous Corner, Woman in Bash - Medea Redux, Christine in Miss Julie and Una in Blackbird.
This is Chris McCrudden's first production at The Tower Theatre, which he joined in February this year. It's also his first dramatic role in more than ten years, though he has been seen on stages across the country in his former guise as a cabaret artist and burlesque performer. Previous dramatic credits include Amadeus, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pravda and Pericles.
Ruth Sullivan joined the Tower in 2007. Her first play as an actor saw her traipsing up and down imaginary stairs in Taking Steps, since when she has acted, choreographed and directed for the company. Her productions as director include Macbeth, The Maids and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Other shows include Putting It Together, The Fabulous Eddie and Otis Soul Revue, Hamlet, The Real Thing, The Last Five Years, Lark Rise and, most recently, David Copperfield. She has also choreographed Hair and Assassins for SEDOS.
Andrew Steele is a new member and this is his first production with the Tower. Andrew trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. As well as several stage engagements, Andrew has appeared in the award nominated television comedy Phoneshop, several national commercials for brands such as Thomson Holidays and 3 Mobile and a global campaign for Volvo.
Martin South has acted and directed for the Tower Theatre Company for thirty years, and has been its
Artistic Director. Over the last year, he has directed the Fleet Street comedy, Damages, and appeared as the Duke of Exeter
in Henry V (for Network Theatre); Daniel Peggotty in David Copperfield; the Chairman of the Music Hall Royale in The Mystery of Edwin Drood; and Sir William Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea.
John McSpadyen is now in his 23rd year as a Tower member, having participated as an actor, ASM, SM, technical operator, set designer and director. For the Tower he has recently directed Copenhagen, Faith Healer, The Constant Wife and Bash: Latterday Plays, and acted in Cigarettes and Chocolate and Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. He has also directed for Questors Theatre in Ealing and the London and Edinburgh Fringe. Away from the theatre, John bakes excellent shortbread and enjoys a good DVD box set.