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EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: SPEAKING IN TONGUES: THE TRUTHS, Pleasance CourtyardTwo for one is more commonly applied to tickets at the Fringe rather than the plays themselves. Evidently keen to push against such boundaries, Doughnut Productions have taken a play by Andrew Bovell and separated it into two productions. Running in tandem with a linked piece, Speaking in Tongues: The Lies, at the same venue, this part of the play depicts a series of relationships around the central event of the disappearance of psychiatrist Valerie Summers.

In an inversion of theatre in the round, the audience is placed at the centre, seated on swivel chairs and able to turn and face the action as it happens around them. Both parts of the play are being staged in a pop-up venue at the Pleasance - an inflatable tent that, if the play is an inversion of theatre in the round, can best be described as an inversion of a bouncy castle. It's a little weird, but with some inventive lighting and video projections, the effect is quite atmospheric.

In this production, the performances are uniformly excellent. Phil Aizlewood's monologue as The Man who finds Valerie on a deserted back road is particularly arresting, while even at close quarters, Ben Elder as Neil and John offers two such well-differentiated performances that it necessitated a programme check to ascertain whether or not I had missed an actor.

Bovell's script contains several overlapping monologue sections, which are the places the swivel chairs find the most use. The performances are engaging enough that they leave the audience conflicted as to where their sympathies, and their focus, should lie.

Overall, however, the swivel chairs are a little gimmicky and the play probably would not lose much by being staged more conventionally. Equally, it's hard to fault the company too much for using gimmicks to stand out at the Fringe.

Luckily, the four actors manage to keep the tension rising throughout the play as the previously disparate narrative threads are brought together. Though we are left with ambiguity as to the fates of their characters, the development we have seen ensures that the experience is not unfulfilling.

In the end, while the distinctive staging may attract the attention, it is the strong performances that make Speaking in Tongues: The Truths a performance worth catching.

Speaking in Tongues: The Truths runs until August 28 at 8.15pm. Companion piece Speaking in Tongues: The Lies runs on the same dates at 7pm.

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From This Author Amy Hanson

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