Make no mistake: ‘English Speakers’ is an intelligent script. And there were elements of its staging that were borderline ingenious. I have no doubt that it will be heard by a much wider audience, either as a podcast or potentially as the script for a piece of animation.
But in Lille Scene at Skuespilhuset on Thursday night, most of the duration of this 75-minute recording was endured in the dark. Wearing the odd flashing light, the experience is 95 percent sound-sensory.
For a similar experience, you could just sit at home and listen to the podcast with your eyes closed.
A little dizzy
At home, of course, it would be difficult to enclose the audience with ten speakers, each with their own light display and performer.
Five minutes into the performance, the actors begin to count to ten (each assigned their own number) in different variations of Old Norse and map the language’s development to contemporary English.
As the voices surround the room, the effect is exciting, albeit a little dizzying. It underscores the potential of what is to come: perhaps the complete absence of physical will not hold it back, and it will create its own dynamism.
Not for the fragile
Nine or other ten words get the same treatment as the numbers. There is insight and music and occasionally humorous moments, but not much.
Maybe the topic is too good to downplay with cheap laughs. The circuits of the actors are sometimes so powerful, it is as if we hear our ancestors say these common words for the first time: ‘Wife’, ‘Husband’, the integrated words in our existence that end with ‘th’, the most offensive word in the English language …
Among the voices, Sue Hansen-Styles stands out as narrator and David Bateson as chief agitator, but it’s only half a performance in the dark.
Perfect for the pandemic
Sara Hamming is to be applauded for her creation, but I’m not sure this staging is worthy of your time when you could just turn on the podcast at home.
The subject matter is certainly thought-provoking, but at no point did it feel as if the audience was as gripped as by a visual display.
Podcasts are becoming more and more popular, of course, but how many would we mind if pressing play first involved rushing to the theater and then stepping home in the dark.
This was a theatrical performance that need not have waited for the lifting of the restrictions.
Source: The Nordic Page