Bite your Tongue, 4 Stars

Bite your Tongue
Hackney Showrooms
31st Aug – 2nd Sept 201

“Talawa Theatre Company has announced details for Bite Your Tongue: a new devised theatre production from London’s emerging Black talent. Coming to Hackney Showroom from 31 August – 2 September, Bite Your Tongue is a response from the city’s young theatre makers to issues with language and communication in a multi-cultural city. As new terms and labels enter our vocabularies while others become obsolete, , Bite Your Tongue explores whether we should be reaching towards one common language, or fighting to express ourselves in our own ways. 

Directed by Miranda Cromwell (Artistic Director of Twisted Theatre), the company will also receive specialist mentoring from voice and dialect coach Hazel Holder (Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre; Angels in America & Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre), musical director Mike Henry (Barber Shop Chronicles, FELA!, Amen Corner National Theatre) and movement director Yami Löfvenberg (Dance Consultant, London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony).”

Review by Mark Banfield, 4 Stars

Bite Your Tongue is bursting with ideas, energy, earnestness and enthusiasm. I admire the many views and ideas portrayed in the play. It covered so many issues including: what is black culture?  What is black identity? Bite Your Tongue questioned how the various cultures derived from the Caribbean and African diaspora have developed and changed over the generations.  The play made references to the appropriation of black culture, segregation, sexuality, feminism, masculinity, and online bullying.  However, there was not enough time for these issues to be explored in depth. As a result of the overflow of ideas, issues and scenarios and the number of characters, there was some stereotyping and insufficient character development. At times I felt Bite Your Tongue was like a clever and fast-paced sketch show rather than a play with an overarching plot. It was a show which opened the window to various points of view, which meant that they were skimmed over and not explored in the depth I would like.  I wanted to go deeper.

The play was written and developed by the 18- 25-year-old performers, collaborating with established artists, through rehearsal and improvisation. This resulted in an abundance of fresh and pertinent ideas.  However, it would benefit from being more clearly structured. I had understood all and experienced most of the racist and sexist behaviors depicted in Bite Your Tongue. I believe the audience was also fully aware of and had lived through these micro aggressions, hence the laughter of recognition. So who was the target audience?

Considering the technical aspects of the production, the set whilst a very basic construction of large cardboard used to represent the building blocks of the tower the protagonist hope to realise, with accented blue boxes to represent an online presence are effectively deployed through out. The lighting is somewhat harsh and could benefit from warmer filters. This however is more than compensated for by excellent harmonious vocal that we were treated throughout with some original mash ups. As to the costumes I am a little biased as this season I have embraced the muted colour palette and the cream and rose sleeveless t shirts and pants rendering the players as blank profiles to me seemed like a vision of sartorial perfection. The usage of props just like the colour palette is also restricted but this serves to only draw the audience in further to the action on stage. By far the best element for me is the very professional choreography and blocking with interesting visual forms being produced by the players bodies during their musical / dancing improvisations Talawa is a very talented and energetic team of yourng performers with amazing vocals and harmonies. Very funny and convincing playing of various cultural stereotypical characters from white middle class couples to bigoted factory workers.

There were strong performances from the cast as individual characters and as an ensemble. I enjoyed the intelligent use of songs, some of which were original and some used as cultural references to underscore key issues, moving the play along. I enjoyed the harmonies. Movement and dance were also used to successfully change the pace and mood of the play from scene to scene. The physical portrayal of social media, such as live-streaming and real-time posts worked well; it was clever and funny. The cast fully exploited their multiple talents as writers, actors, singers, and dancers to great effect.

I feel very hopeful that this multi-talented group of writers/actors/ singers who have written and performed in Bite Your Tongue,  have confidently continued and, maybe for some,  started a conversation about our role in the world. I believe there is much more to come from this confident cast.  The future is bright.

 

Very talented and energetic team of yourng performers with amazing vocals and harmonies. Very funny and convincing playing of various cultural stereotypical characters from white middle class couples to bigoted factory workers

The full cast and creative team includes:

Akuc Bol – Performer/Deviser
Aminita Francis – Performer/Deviser
Chris Udoh – Performer/Deviser
Dorcas Stevens – Performer/Deviser
Esme Allman – Performer/Deviser
Isabel Adomakoh Young – Performer/Deviser
Monica Siyanga  – Performer/Deviser
Nelson Ekaragha – Performer/Deviser
Tre Gordon – Performer/Deviser
Yazmin Belo – Performer/Deviser
Chisara Agor – Writer/Deviser
Kelly Roberts – Writer/Deviser
Roberta Livingston – Writer/Deviser

Miranda Cromwell – Director
Rachel Clarke – Assistant Director
Yami Löfvenberg – Movement Director
Jasmine Breinburg – Assistant Movement
Hazel Holder – Voice and Dialect Coach
Mike Henry – Musical Director
Sadeysa Greenway-Bailey – Designer
Samantha Nurse – Production Manager
Sylvia Darkwa-Ohemeng – Stage Manager on book
Pablo Fernandez Baz – Lighting Designer
Alice Simonato – Assistant Designer
Patricia Nimo – ASM/Design
James Johnson – ASM
Gail Babb – Producer

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