Dandenong Theatre Company proudly presents Andrew Bovell's play Speaking In Tongues. Haunting and confronting, the play explores infidelity, trust, isolation, coincidence and all things in between.
The play is directed by DTC veteran Colin Morley whose resume is as impressive as it is eclectic – A Midsummer Night's Dream; Dimboola; The Laramie Project; Death Of A Salesman; Noises Off; Get Smart; Cabaret; Rewind/Fast Forward; Sweeney Todd and performing at The Dandenong Carols by Candlelight Festival to name but a few.
How did you first become involved with this particular play?
I’ve found in my theatrical career that I don’t find a play or production – it finds me!
I saw the big screen version, Lantana, several years and was struck not only by the story but also the commanding performances of the combination of Australian and international talent – the swap of the character of “Sarah” for a gay man (wonderfully portrayed by Peter Phelps) talking to “Valerie” (Barbara Hershey) about his affair with a married man and his lover saying that making love to his wife was like trying to fill a bottomless well still gives me goose bumps…
In early 2010, I was invited by a friend, Rachel Negus, to see a production she was starring in with Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group (STAG) – directed by our very own, Kris Weber incidentally – called Speaking In Tongues. Another friend, Sharon Maine, had already mentioned it to me in passing as a show she was looking to direct later that year. At the time, however, it was a show that a friend was performing in and I was going along to show my support.
The first thing that struck me was the wonderful script, particularly the syncopated dialogue between the couples in the first part. The second thing that struck me was the absolute theatricality of the piece. Kris’ stylised settings (I’m a big fan of stylised) and effective use of AV and rear-projection focussed her audience’s attention on the actors and the dialogue. Each performance that night was strong, raw and, while the script is not always meant to be taken literally, very real. I left the theatre that night determined to be involved personally with this play at some stage.
Are you primarily an actor or director?
To date, I’ve been primarily an actor.
How long have you been directing and when did you decide it was time to explore that part of the creative process?
Once again, directing was something that found me. During the rehearsal process for DTC’s 2009 production of Cabaret, I was approached by Kym Davies about directing their next production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directing was something I had considered, but didn’t necessarily feel it was something I was ready for. However, the opportunity was there and I seized it.
Describe the play for us without using the descriptions that this play usually engenders.
For me, the play, while intricate and involved can also be broken right down to a basic human need for recognition, approval, acceptance and, ultimately, love. Each character talks their way around this basic need in an attempt to extract some additional meaning from their life. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered from which the audience can draw their own inference.
How was this production chosen by DTC?
DTC has a very strong play tradition, particularly within the last five (5) years with a lot of recognition for work. This culminated in our critically acclaimed production of The Laramie Project in 2010. In the second half of 2011, we are producing both a play and a musical (to continue both traditions of DTC), and Speaking In Tongues was put forward as a production which would both continue our strong play tradition and also lent itself to a stylised interpretation similar to The Laramie Project.
What is it like to direct actors that have previously directed you?
It’s challenging, infuriating, humbling and rewarding, and all in the best possible way. It always plays on your mind as to what you can offer them or teach them – I want all of my actors to walk away from the experience with something. I’m directing actors and directors of the highest calibre who I enjoy learning as much as possible from, and who continually push me to achieve excellence in my work.
Describe the set design and what you hope it will evoke for the audience?
We are removing the fourth wall and proscenium arch and setting the entire play in the round. The set will be very minimal and consist of a central platform on two (2) levels with some basic set pieces. The upper level of the platform will (hopefully) rotate 180 degrees between the first and second acts. I hope to evoke both a semi-surreal and dream-like state for our audience, as well as making the experience almost uncomfortably voyeuristic as this very personal human drama is magnified in a fishbowl for observation by the world.
This is a strong script. Is it easier to use a minimalistic approach with a strong script?
A strong script always help with a minimalistic approach to a play or production, however I wouldn’t necessarily say that it makes it easier. A strong script and a strong cast is better!
Tell us a little about the cast and the audition process?
My cast are a combination of seasoned (and acclaimed) DTC performers – Kym Davies, Matt Caton and Joe Dias – and one (1) newcomer to our company from New Zealand – Sian Ellett. I followed the audition process we used for The Laramie Project and asked my actors to prepare a monologue – preferably from an Australian play and not from Speaking In Tongues – to perform to the audition group in the round. I set up an audition “space” for them with a combination of levels and with different set pieces and asked them to use the space as they felt fit. It was a very intense and personal experience.
What are the themes dealt with in the play?
Where to start? There are so many levels and themes to this play – love, betrayal, insecurity, suspicion, loss of self-identity, disappointment, frustration, avoidance, denial, faith, hope, a search for meaning in life, the desperate need to feel something, are just some that immediately come to mind.
This is DTC's VDL entry play. Does that heighten the stakes for you as a director?
It does play it’s part but I wouldn’t say it heightens the stakes. While recognition by a group such as the VDL is appreciated and always welcome, I aim to achieve excellence in all of my work regardless.
What is your hope that the audience takes with them after viewing this play?
I hope the audience takes away some kind of feeling about the play – either positive or negative – that will be enough for me.
This play contains quite strong language and themes. Do you believe this may dissuade some people from attending and if so what would you like to say to those people to perhaps change their minds.
It is a confronting play, with strong language and themes, however it is also a beautifully scripted work and it will make you feel something – you won’t be disappointed.
What is next for yourself?
I’ll be directing DTC’s Melbourne Fringe Festival 2011 entry in September/October – a very clever satire of the writing of the greatest story ever told by our own Matt Caton called Don’t Take It As Gospel.
Speaking in Tongues will play at Dandenong Theatre Company: The Castle, Hemmings Park, 61A Princes Highway, DANDENONG VIC 3175 (melways 90, C5) on: August 26/27 and September 2/3 @ 8pm and August 28 and September 4 @ 5pm Ticket Booking Line: 03 9771 6666 (**EARLY BIRD SPECIAL – ALL TICKETS PURCHASED BEFORE 1 AUGUST @ $25) Ticket Prices: $30 Adult/$28 Concession dandenongtheatre.org.au/index.php/productions/21-speaking-in-tongues-august-2011