Your Words in My Mouth review: What’s not to love?

Dublin Theatre Festival: Turning watchers into performers, this unusual show finds a subtle route into theatre’s fundamental aims

Your Words in My Mouth: the show makes us not just consider but also represent a distant stranger’s perspectives

Your Words in My Mouth: the show makes us not just consider but also represent a distant stranger’s perspectives

 

YOUR WORDS IN MY MOUTH – BRUSSELS TAKE

Natural Cuts and other venues
★★★★☆
What do we talk about when we talk about love? The short answer, the Belgian collaborators Anna Rispoli, Lotte Lindner and Till Steinbrenner make clear, is that we talk first about ourselves: our experience, reflections and imagination. The playful conceit of their production, though, is to make us not just consider but also represent the perspectives of a distant stranger.

Bringing small audiences into a series of intimate venues (the funky Natural Cuts hair salon in this case), it asks us to read through a real conversation between a panoply of Brussels residents. It may be an unconventional act of theatre, this unrehearsed public reading, but it provides a disarmingly subtle route into one of theatre’s more fundamental aims: to arouse empathy, to put yourself in someone’s place.

To be both performer and audience – a task that a number of productions in this year’s festival have assigned – is a curious thing, at once dividing and sharpening attention. Here, the pricks of self-consciousness (the sound of your voice, your eyesight, your cues) gradually dissipate to allow your “character”, and those around you, to materialise, each advancing views that flatter, amuse or affront your own.

The effect is genuine intermingling. You may forget, for instance, the sex or age of a speaker, blurring into their reader, and concentrate better on the opinion

Love, no less than art, is a political subject, quickly ushering in conversations about traditional monogamy, the emotional complexity of open relationships or the exhausting efforts of polyamory, one proponent’s antidote to “a society that is institutionalising itself around the couple”. To some people, even two is a crowd.

Perhaps this group was carefully curated, with a careful balance of genders, beliefs and races, and political positions across the spectrum, from the far left to the far right. But the effect is genuine intermingling. You may forget, for instance, the sex or age of a speaker, blurring into their reader, and concentrate better on the opinion. You listen carefully to yourself and each other.

The late arrival of another character, a refugee transitioning from female to male – “No one’s going to believe someone like this exists,” insists the right-winger – invites frank and moving conversation about trans identity. But it also reflects the artful way this show’s participants, and their watchers, have been encouraged, if just for an hour, to assume a wholly new identity, to see themselves differently and to become absorbed in different views. What’s not to love?

At Freemasons' Hall today and City Hall council chamber tomorrow, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival

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