Date: May 02 2012
Director Ross McGregor says a lot of people don't seem to have heard of Andrew Bovell's play Speaking in Tongues. But mention to them the award-winning 2001 movie adaptation, Lantana, and there'll be a few nods of recognition.
McGregor, whose last Canberra Repertory production was A Voyage Round my Father in 2010, is directing Speaking in Tongues as the second production in its 80th-birthday season.
He thinks that people who know Lantana will be interested in where it came from. And, good as the film is, he thinks that Speaking in Tongues is better.
It all takes place in the same town and begins with two couples on stage.
We learn each is pursuing an adulterous liaison. Leon (played by Rob de Fries) and Jane (Lainie Hart) are in one hotel room and Pete (Duncan Ley) and Sonya (Helen McFarlane) are in the other.
Each is married to the other person's temporary partner.
''They're reflected as though in a mirror,'' McGregor says.
''A lot of the dialogue is spoken at the same time which is a great thrill; it makes Speaking in Tongues more thrilling than the film because a film can't do that. And the film has to be more linear; the play is not.''
McGregor says that Speaking in Tongues is ''a play about families, really''.
''Six degrees of separation become one or two.''
One of the couples that is seen in the opening decides to go through with the tryst, while the other does not.
''That's one story strand through the play,'' McGregor says.
Later, Peter and Leon meet for the first time at a bar by chance, not knowing about what connects them and events develop from there.
Other characters are introduced. There's Valerie (Bridgette Black), a therapist married to John (Zach Raffan). Her patients include Sarah (Eliza Bell), who talks about the obsessive letters she's been receiving from Neil (Raoul Craemer).
One night, Valerie's car breaks down outside the town. She is picked up by another driver, Nick (Sam Hannan-Morrow) but she panics, jumps out of his car and disappears.
As the play proceeds the intermingled relationships of the characters gradually become clear.
''It's intellectually a challenge,'' McGregor says.
''Those who enjoy thrillers will enjoy it and another good thing about Speaking in Tongues is that it has fantastically clever dialogue.''
The psychological thriller element is also appealing, he says, even though people don't necessarily get all the answers.
And the characters have enough psychological depth to resonate.
''There are not many situations in the play that people haven't either experienced or been tempted by or will know someone who has.''
The play was originally written for four actors who doubled roles but McGregor has cast one actor in each part.
''When I was doing auditions I proposed to do it with four actors if I didn't get nine really good people.''
But he was so impressed by the talent on offer that he was able to cast nine actors, which he thinks is more satisfactory for audiences, since it solves some of the potential confusion for the audience in working out who's who.
There is, he says, quite enough in the twists and turns of the story and its various themes - adultery, fidelity, obsession and trust, to name a few - for audience members to absorb. And he thinks they, like many others before them, will find it a rewarding experience.
■ Speaking in Tongues is on at Theatre 3, off Ellery Crescent, Acton. Preview show May 3 at 8pm, then May 4 to 19, Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm with 2pm matinees on May 12, 13 and 19. Tickets $38/$32. Bookings: 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au.
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