Saturday, 26 March 2016

Tongue Tied- Theatre Review

Ever felt alone? No one understands you? Have you ever wanted to speak but the words just seem to get stuck? Tongue Tied is the show for you...

I read an article this week in The Stage that caused me to feel quite cross. Actually, that's a huge understatement! It made me apoplectic with anger not least because it was totally and absolutely wrong. Double Award Winning Playwright, David Hare, said the following:

“The idea of a pioneering, cutting-edge avant garde, I am afraid, has more or less completely disappeared from the British theatre, and now you just have every artistic director with his or her eye on the box office, because that is the mood of the times,” 

Now, you may be of the opinion that actually Mr Hare is pretty much right with this assertion as more and more West Productions rely on bankable stars (David Tennant, Ian McKellen et al) to fill their seats and justify the hefty prices that they charge. But no Mr Hare is not right at all and all he has to do is take a trip further than the glitz and glamour of the West End to see that I'm right! My second trip to the marvellous Lion and Unicorn Theatre was to see Tongue Tied. Coming from the same Acting school as the team that brought us NightFlyer, my expectations were high and I was not disappointed. 

Tongue Tied is a wonderfully inventive, and yes Mr Hare, cutting edge, avant garde piece of theatre. Developed and performed by the students themselves it deals with the themes of displacement, loneliness and even packs a powerful punch aimed at the political inability to support drama in education. Yet again, I find myself stunned into silence by a young, just about to graduate, Company that demonstrate they are perfectly capable of delivering performances that keep audiences of all ages entertained. I have seen plays with so called house hold names attached to them that have delivered lack lustre and below par performances. So yet again, I must challenge you to step outside of your comfort zones and buy tickets to see theatrical projects that are delivered by unknown casts, because if you don't you simply do not know what you are missing!

Maychay (Asha Gwatkin) is a an 8 year old girl who has been ripped away from her family and home that she loves. May isn't simply in another town, she is in another country and Dubai seems a world away from her life in England. Barely able to speak outside of the relative safety of her home, we see this scary new world through her eyes and feel the pain and devastation she feels in her heart. Her school days are an endless battle to communicate with the other girls that attempt to befriend her. Asha perfectly portrays a young girl who is simply lost at sea in a country that she did not choose for herself. May's situation is not improved by a teacher (Liam Maddin) whose educational style is to instil terror rather that inspire. How many of us have experienced teachers like this? Those that prefer to ridicule and destroy the creative flair within us rather than nurture and develop it? In tearful despair, May discovers a bookshop unlike any other and finds a way to break the chains that render her silent. Valerie Babbage isn't just a bookshop owner, she is a teacher and she is willing to change, listen and learn as much as she educates.

My History Teacher was like Valerie Babbage (Tiffany Burr) she didn't just teach us the dates and facts she brought them to life. Every History lesson would bring the past into the present and it would be an experience that I would never forget. For Valerie Babbage, there are no obstacles in life that cannot be overcome. Enlisting the help of her friendly Book Worms, Valerie befriends May and finds a way to teach her that will ensure she can successfully rebuild her life with new friends. May's school friends and the Book Worms are portrayed by the same actors and with minimal costume differences this could have got confusing. However, due to the fabulous characteristics of each Book Worm, this is simply not an issue for the audience. Pumpy (Louisa Fenn) Fizzy (Emily Lee) Charlie (Liam Maddin) Pearl (Annie Myers) Skippy (Isabel Dos Santos) and Greta (Jo White) all have unique talents and are portrayed effectively by the cast. The inclusion of a Narrator (Elise Woolnough) serves as both an elloquent introduction and summation to the play but is also used to heighten the dramatic effect and seamlessly ties the scenes together. 

The plays length of 55 minutes allows it to be enjoyed by even the youngest of children without any concentration issues and the mixture of visual spectacle as well as tight script means that it is easy to follow. For adults, the issues of connection with children pulls at the heart strings and challenges to the core. Just because reasons for traumatic life changes are explained does not mean that they are any easier to accept. Perhaps as adults we need to find different ways to empathise and support our children?  

Tongue Tied will shortly embark on a tour of schools and will continue to delight and challenge audiences. 

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