Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
View:
Review
Review

Small Mouth Sounds

"warmly comic insights jolt throughout"

Audrey review: Bess Wohl's comedy speaks in the broken semaphore of six people trying to get along.

Text size
Text size
Category: Theatre
Book Now
Add to favourites

Small Mouth Sounds

Date: 8 May 2019

American writer Bess Wohl’s play is set in one of those quasi-religious retreats that asks you to leave your baggage at the door.

Your phone. Your ego. Your hang-ups. Your doubts. Especially your doubts.

First to arrive for this particular week-long intensive is Jan (played by Justin Smith), who immediately strikes as a fish out of water.

He’s soon joined by the cheesecloth-clad and bead-bedecked Rodney (Dorje Swallow), who immediately ups the ante by assuming a meditative position on the floor.

Next to arrive is a somewhat anxious, Kathmandu-wearing Ned (Yalin Ozucelik), followed by bickering couple Joan and Judy (Sharon Millerchip and Jane Phegan).

Late to the party is Alicia (Amber McMahon), who at first glance seems to have brought every possible item of personal baggage with her.

The voice of the retreat leader (Jo Turner, also this production’s director) lays down the ground rules: no phones; no eating in the dorms; no talking. Clothing is optional (at the lake, only); beware of the panther.

What unfolds over the course of the play’s 90-odd minutes isn’t that surprising. Micro-aggressions are perpetrated and endured. Desire simmers. Rivalries develop. Some of these people aren’t what they seem at first glance. Individual heartaches will be revealed.

The novelty here is that all this is related more or less without words. Small Mouth Sounds speaks in the broken semaphore of six people trying to get along.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Turner’s direction is expertly calibrated, with the production straddling the realms of emotional realism and an episode of Mr Bean.

Gesture and facial expression is nuanced enough to draw us closer to the characters yet sufficiently broad to transmit to the back row.

Scene transitions are facilitated with gently humorous choreography and the slapstick is wielded with restraint.

Jasmine Rizk’s lighting supports the shifting moodscape impeccably.

It’s entirely an ensemble effort (and what a fine ensemble this is) but Ozucelik stands out for his adroit physical comedy and delivery of the play’s only speech. Millerchip’s outwardly sunny Joan is pitch perfect.

We only hear the teacher-guru (over a live mike) yet Turner makes us ‘see’ him. The vocal similarity to Jordan Peterson is uncanny and, I assume, entirely deliberate.

You mightn’t be rocked out of your seat by Small Mouth Sounds but its warmly comic insights jolt throughout. Recommended.

Content
Folk
Add to favourites
TheatreEnsemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney 3 May - 1 Jun 2019

Folk

Audrey review: A cosy but threadbare homily on the power of music to transcend generations and foster a sense of community.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Add to favourites
TheatreRoslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney 29 Apr - 8 Jun 2019

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Audrey review: A bleakly powerful staging may prove revelatory but tests your tolerance levels for depictions of profoundly toxic men.

American Psycho
Add to favourites
MusicalHayes Theatre, Potts Point, Sydney 10 May - 9 Jun 2019

American Psycho

Audrey review: Light on blood and violence, but this production’s sharp edges and slashing wit leave a lasting impression.

See More

More to see

View All
Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)
Add to favourites
DanceCarriageworks, Eveleigh, Sydney 30 May - 1 Jun 2019

Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)

A triple bill of solo works explores the complexity of reciprocity while challenging our understanding of our history and place.

Prima Facie
Add to favourites
TheatreGriffin Theatre, Kings Cross, Sydney 17 May - 22 Jun 2019

Prima Facie

In a system built by men, operated by men, inclined to distrust women, does the truth even matter?

Mercury Fur
Add to favourites
TheatreKings Cross Theatre, Kings Cross Hotel, Sydney 24 May - 8 Jun 2019

Mercury Fur

In a lawless, apocalyptic London, two brothers survive by orchestrating the decadent fantasies of their rich and powerful clients.

Necrophilia
Add to favourites
TheatreLimelight on Oxford, Darlinghurst, Sydney 22 May - 1 Jun 2019

Necrophilia

From Lincoln Vickery, a fresh new comedy about taboo, fetish and the limits of empathy.

Top