Tongues: A Cabaret review

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I’ve never seen something quite like ‘Tongues: A Cabaret’.  What Sincerity have produced is fascinating and something which I’ve never really seen before- to combine various short play excerpts into one show, in showcasing a cohesive message. I’m not sure I’d necessarily call it a cabaret, but it was certainly structured in a similarly chaotic yet charmingly honest fashion that made Tongues throroughly stand out from the often frustratingly plain student theatre. However, in my opinion it could have structured even less tightly, in order to let the themes appear more naturally to the audience. The narration was the only aspect I didn’t enjoy, in fact I found the narrator deeply irritating, unfunny and overexplained all that should have spawned naturally from the carefully selected plays. But with the narration to one side, Tongues was a complete triumph, and a truly intellectually stimulating piece of theatre. 

The first act ‘Adam & Eve’ began as a relatively light-hearted take on the creation story. Although simple, the humour was tightly crafted and proved popular among the audience. But the real talent here was found in the leads Samuel Pye and Fatima Rodriguez who both oozed confidence in their roles and were completely captivating. The conclusion was particularly poignant and held the social relevance. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and their regional accents were transformed to RP whilst they transformed into civilised human beings. Yet, they quickly reverted back to their original neanderthalic ways at the fate of greed and overconsumption. Sincerity made this clever significance accessible to the audience, and I was really left wowed. 

The second act ‘Diana and Autonoe’ was probably my least favourite of the three plays, but nevertheless was very powerful. The carefully crafted lighting and colour immediately changed the mood of the performance towards a rich, ancient Greek life. This luxurious scenography made Diana’s torture and pain at the hands of Autonoe all the more harsh. But this play was far more morally complex than on the surface, where Diana’s killed son was found to be a man who showed reckless, misogynistic behaviour. This raises a lot of questions for today’s society regarding gender politics and to what extent we should forgive.

The two leads in this were again very strong. Malka Kovalenko in particular put in a deeply nuanced portrayal of an emotionally destroyed woman and was the highlight of the show for me. She then nearly brought me to tears in the foreign language musical interlude that followed the second act. To be that theatrically and musically talented is impressive, and she is surely set for a strong career. And the general inclusion of music in Tongues was genius and deeply enriched the tone of the play. Phoebe Mycroft should also be mentioned for her fantastic talents in providing elements of a classical soundtrack to the play.

The final act ‘LMNOP’ was an extremely original, captivating story to close on, but one that was so fascinating that perhaps could have been a whole play in its own right; the short length and limited set maybe didn’t help it fulfil its potential heights. However, it was nonetheless a suitably dystopian way to end the play tying the stories to the present day and the dreaded totalitarian future of society. And in this case, a society which bizarrely censors particular letters of the alphabet. This continues until the only letters left are the letters that spell the state’s name. Martha Shannon is emotionally gripping in her eventual climax into insanity, and her relationship with Jack Taylor’s narrator is totally believable.

Upon leaving the audience, Tongues: A Cabaret has left me with a plethora of feelings and moral thoughts. Sincerity’s show is an absolute triumph and they should be very proud of creating something so original and complex, and managing to execute it with absolute perfection on a limited budget and minimal set. 

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