Speaking in Tongues

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DOI: 10.5040/9781784601461.00000003
Roles: Male (6) , Female (6) , Neutral (0)

Andrew Bovell's Speaking in Tongues is a play about marital infidelity, with multiple narratives and a mystery at its core. It was first performed on 6 August 1996 in a production by Griffin Theatre Company at The Stables, Sydney, Australia. It was later adapted by Bovell into the screenplay for the feature film Lantana (2001).

Comprising three parts, the play begins with two married couples (Pete and Jane, and Leon and Sonja) embarking on one-night stands: Pete with Sonja, and Leon with Jane. Although Leon and Jane carry through with the infidelity where Pete and Sonja don't, both couples echo each other's dialogue. When the characters are reunited with their spouses, Jane has an unnerving story to tell about seeing a bloodied neighbour hurling a woman's shoe into a rubbish dump. The ramifications of this are explored in the next part, although this part features four new characters: Sarah, Valerie (Sarah's therapist), Neil (Sarah's ex-boyfriend) and Nick (Jane and Pete's neighbour). In the final part, when the narrative mystery is resolved, Leon, Sarah and Valerie return, and are joined by John (Valerie's husband).

The script states that 'Each part has been written for four actors: two men and two women'. It is common in production for the entire play to be performed by just four actors (playing nine characters), reinforcing the play's structural echoes and symmetries.

The Griffin Theatre Company premiere was directed by Ros Horin and designed by Liane Wilcher, with Elaine Hudson as Jane/Valerie, Glenda Linscott as Sonja/Sarah, Geoff Morrell as Pete/Neil/John and Marshall Napier as Leon/Nick.

The play was first performed in the UK at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 8 June 2000 in a production directed by Mark Clements and designed by Niki Turner, with Juliet Prew as Jane/Valerie, Katherine Rogers as Sonja/Sarah, Nigel Le Vaillant as Pete/Neil/John and Jonathan Guy Lewis as Leon/Nick.

It was revived at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End on 28 September 2009 (previews from 18 September), in a production directed by Toby Frow and designed by Ben Stones, with Lucy Cohu as Sonja/Valerie, Kerry Fox as Jane/Sarah, Ian Hart as Pete/Neil/John and John Simm as Leon/Nick.

From Speaking in Tongues

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Nick Hern Books

Andrew Bovell

ISBN: 9781848420748

Series: NHB Modern Plays

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